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The Mom Test – How to talk to customers (volpee.de)
472 points by jack335 65 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 130 comments

Heya, author here. Fun to see this.

I wrote the book after becoming hugely frustrated as an introverted technical founder trying to "talk to customers" but finding zero books about sales/interviews/etc that spoke to my context. That first company (yc s07) failed just as I started to figure it all out, but the casual approach proved useful (and comfortable) in my future businesses, so I wanted to document it for other folks like me.

If it's helpful for anyone, I've been answering reader questions with little youtube videos that touch on some of the common misunderstanding and sticking points.[1]

Also, back when covid started, I also did a short series (5x 5min videos) about adapting the approach to remote interviews.[2]

[1] Q&A: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLvHabB7atz2uWPZN5m7z3...

[2] Remote: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLvHabB7atz2tOjQs1OMzj...

Your book changed my life. Seriously, good work, keep it up :)

I tried getting my co-founder (a serious old-skool sales guy) to read it, but he refused because he didn't need to be told anything about sales. Then he made exactly all the mistakes you talk about in the book when talking to our prospects. It was my first clue that maybe having a good salesperson as co-founder wasn't going to be the great experience I was anticipating. 2 years later the project died because we didn't get any customers.

I recommend the book to everyone now. If they don't immediately go "this is awesome!" then I'm suspicious ;)

I have had co-founders to my businesses and I've done businesses solo. Solo always works better. Pretty much anyone who wants a technical co-founder is someone who won't pull their weight.

Plus you lose half your equity right off the bat and you are dependent on someone and you aren't really sure what they're going to do for you.

VCs and investors are the only ones who like co-founders because then they can fire one of you that will later on if you're not doing what they want.

Do you think this book would be good for a sales engineer inside a larger organization?

A few of the ideas, yes, but not the whole thing. But you could probably get those ideas just as easily from the linked summary.

In particular, stuff like digging beneath requirements & feature requests to understand the root cause and their current behavior. And probably also the general idea of opening up a safe space for open learning at the beginning of each conversation (which is also a common idea in other sales approaches like SPIN Selling).

Also, it would be more useful while scoping out a new product/market, and less useful for products that are already mature/defined.

So my guess is that you'd get a couple useful ideas, but not a book's worth.

Looking forward to reading the book, looks great.

Just a small technical issue: I just tried to buy the book on http://momtestbook.com/ via Gumroad, and Chrome refuses to autofill the credit card number in the Gumroad widget because the site is http-only. I circumvented that by copying the link from the "Buy on Gumroad" button, but it might be hurting your sales. Consider adding SSL certificate or just make the button click open the Gumroad site.

You're totally right — it's one of those things that's always on the list but never feels like the day's top priority, and then one day you wake up and it's on HN and you feel like a dummy ;). Probably some sort of lesson for me to learn here.

(If anyone else needs it, the direct/secure gumroad PDF link is https://gum.co/momtest, and the paperback/ebook are on Amazon.)

I'd just like to add, and it was important for me, that gumroad also has epub and mobi, not only PDF. I've almost skipped buying the book because mobi was supposedly only available on Amazon. Fortunately I clicked on gumroad just to find out that epub and mobi are also there.

I'm introvert myself (INTP). I share your frustration. Maybe you have some business hints for introverts? AFAIK, the only successful Unicorn created by INTP's is Google, but I cannot have a talk with Google founders, obviously.

I think it depends very much on your goals. For me, after going through YC with my first company and having a difficult four years chasing scale, I realized that I was oriented more toward lifestyle/reliability/freedom, and I've been fairly focused on that for the last 10 years (although it really only took a couple years to achieve once I was clear on my goals, and has been pretty relaxed since then).

So with that caveat out of the way, my top-of-mind career advice for entrepreneurial introverts is:

1 // Learning how to talk to (and listen to) people is probably the highest-leverage career skill you'll ever learn, even if you only go from "terrible" to "functional." There's a tremendous amount of discomfort while learning it, but that discomfort is temporary. I'll never "like" talking to strangers, and I'll always need to manage my energy levels, context, and recovery time. That being said, the ability to do so when useful to my career (like custdev or sales or fundraising) or life (like making friends in a new city or negotiating with an angry plumber) has been transformational. The pain is temporary and the benefit is profound.

2 // Journal each morning. Braindump your frustrations/goals/fears onto paper. Your brain likely works differently from most "successful" people, which means that the common advice won't fully resonate with you, and you'll need to chart more of your own path. This requires thinking, and for a lot of introverts, writing is the clearest way to think (but if you're different, use what works for you). Similarly, run every piece of advice you hear (well, the compelling bits anyway) through a personality filter, normalize it for personality/context, and then decide whether it's likely to be right you. Common example: "Go to that conference and meet some customers!" Maybe that works for other people, but it has a 0% chance of working for me. But there's a valuable core concept to that advice (go engage with new customers) that can perhaps be adjusted to a context I'm comfortable in.

3 // Cultivate relationships with strong potential cofounders long before you need them. You'll never be as quick on the draw in conversation as others, so you need the important relationships built ahead of time. For potential cofounders (the most important network available), the way to do that is by collaborating on small, time-constrained side projects. Allows both parties to evaluate what each other bring to table outside of an "urgent" situation, and without relying on quick talking.

4 // Don't let anyone press you into "right now" negotiations or decisions. Use live conversations to gather data, and then use your time alone to process it and come to a decision about next steps. Repeat if necessary. Nobody will give you this time by default, but nobody will deny it to you once you ask (and if they do, you probably shouldn't work with them anyway).

There's probably more, that's just top of mind, but it's what feels important to my brain right now.

Not the original parent but thankful you've posted that! Nice one :)

As an author of the book that's summarized, how do you feel about in-depth summaries of your book in terms of it affecting sales and providing publicity? I've always wondered how authors feel about it.

I always love summaries that are publicly posted (like this one, no matter how detailed), and I only dislike the (relatively rare) ones that are repackaged as "new" books on Amazon and then resold at a profit (it feels bad in general, but especially since I already work pretty hard to make my books as short as possible).

My feeling has always been that if a book can be sufficiently summarized in a blog post, then it should be a blog post ;). And if someone reads the summary and fully "gets it," they probably would have been frustrated by the full book, since they probably already had a lot of the foundational knowledge in place. So it's better if they don't buy it in the first place. And different people will read the summary, want the extra detail, and grab the full book, which is great too.

Even with piracy of the full book (which is currently #1 on google for various fairly guessable searches), I still feel that it ends up coming back to me via word of mouth. Piracy probably hurts "bad" books that are propped up by PR, but it definitely helps books that people find useful, since they end up recommending it to other folks who may pay.

I like this viewpoint, it strikes me as mature, realistic and customer-focused. I think I'll learn a lot from your book, thanks!

William Gibson considered piracy a "tax on fame", so you should feel pretty good about those Google searches :)

There is a great summary of the book at the end of it.

I revisit it often

I think you really hit a frustration of many people :D Thanks for the book and your work Rob!

Thank you Rob! I've been advising startups for many years now. I consider your book to be the only mandatory reading for a first time enrapture, ever since i picked it up about 5 years ago. I'm going to order another copy as I've given mind away, (again).

Hey Rob, do you have some resources on B2C businesses? For example starting something like Facebook or TikTok? I noticed that most of the Mom Test seems geared more towards B2B though some of the insights can be extrapolated to B2C as well

The short version is basically:

1. You can still do full "discovery" (i.e., understanding what they're already doing and why, decision-making, current workarounds, etc.), which gives you a better foundation of understanding from which to come up with product ideas

2. But it's MUCH harder to do conversation-only "validation" (i.e., getting confirmation that they're going to buy and use your specific thing before it exists)

So in B2C (and also if building something deep into the future, like 3D Printing), you basically do your discovery as normal and then skip the commitments/validation, jump straight to a quick prototype, and follow the normal iterative product-first learning approach.

A couple Q&A videos (<5min each) that might be relevant:

- You can't learn everything, but can learn more than nothing: https://youtu.be/O16IefIu1zc

- Situations where you need a prototype to keep learning: https://youtu.be/EZGiaIxB0HA

- Traps and solutions to 'nice-to-have' validation: https://youtu.be/yxQoRp01HuQ

I wish more authors could adopt your zero-fluff-all-insights approach.

Thank you for writing the book, I recommended it many times.

Funny you should mention it, that's (part of) the topic of my latest, about designing nonfiction like a problem-solving product (won't plug it here since it's off-topic, but easy enough to find).

Too many authors seem to forget that readers pay for every book twice: once with the cover price and then again with their time.

(And for most business/tech books, the second price is orders of magnitude more costly than the first.)

Anyway, happy it has proven useful and many thanks for the support.

> And for most business/tech books, the second price is orders of magnitude more costly than the first.

Couldn't agree more.

The idea is great. Lean books should be a thing.

Hey there! I am big fan. Thanks for the book.

Just a tiny recommendation: Could you sync the Kindle book with the audible book? I love buying both and read the book while I am listening to it. That would be awesome!

Thank you for this book. It's the best book I read all year about figuring out if the thing you're building is a complete waste if time or actually solves a real need.

I used its guidance at my big tech job when trying to build a new tool for researchers, and it helped me better understand how to understand what they need, iterate, and better tailor the sales pitch afterwards. Who would have thought that talking to customers is the single most valuable thing you can do!

It's a great book. "The meeting went well" became a routinely used phrase in my circles :-) (read the book to understand what that really means!)

Thank you for this. I did have one question about the Mom Test. How do you actually do solution validation? I get that you talk about the problem, but at what point do you actually get feedback if the solution that you want to build (or have built) is going to be a solution for the customer?

If the problem is well-defined, you can get a fairly strong signal on intent-to-purchase by asking for commitments (i.e., time, reputation, money, or secrets about an enterprise buying process). You start with the smallest ones (weakest signal but easiest to ask for early) and then move up toward money (and eventually full price) as you make progress with the overall business.

But if the problem is undefined/unknown (like much future tech), or if the product is a nice-to-have or "10x improvement" (like many B2C apps or UX improvements), then you basically have to validate via a prototype (or some other sort of creative v1).

(You can still do your discovery/understanding via conversation in either case, of course.)

Hey Rob,

Please release that book on dating. Not that I'm interested in the topic, but I'm more interested in reading something entertaining.

Haha oh man, when did I even publicly mention that?

I doubt I'll ever release it as a book (since it needs a full rewrite and my enthusiasm for it was very tied to that moment in my life), but maybe a couple of the ideas will slip out eventually.

Could you please not hijack clicking on text on your website? That's extremely unfriendly to visitors.

The summary is the pure love. Thank you!

Great idea! Thank you for the book

Best book on early stage startups period. And it's barely 100 pages long.

My favorite quote from it:

“Someone should definitely make an X!”

“Have you looked for an X?”

“No, why?”

“There are like 10 different kinds of X.”

“Well I didn't really need it anyway.”

Long story short, that person is a complainer, not a customer. They’re stuck in the la-la-land of imagining they’re the sort of person who finds clever ways to solve the petty annoyances of their day.

I had a conversation in the 90s with an acquaintance:

A: What the world really needs is a native Java compiler. That would be really great! You should write one.

W: I wrote one for Symantec. You can buy it today.

A: I don't want it.

I even did that to myself. I thought about a great product. I was convinced, so I wanted to build it (it would also fulfill my need). Of course then I did research if it already exists. It did. I didn't want it.

Yep. I've done that too.

I don't want paid compiler too. Native compiler for Java for Android exists (APK precompiler) and it's great.

It's possible to make good java compiler into native code and then sell it to a big corp, but I'm not a big corp, so it's good idea, but I'm not a target audience for it.

Android was not around in the 90s

He just wanted to be nice.

I wasn't angry with him, or even annoyed. I simply learned long ago that people who don't have skin in the game rarely give good game advice. People pitch me all the time what programs I should write.

I've written many products over the years, some were successes, others were failures. A common thread has emerged: all the failures were pitched by others. All the successes were ones I wrote to please myself, and everyone told me I was a unique snowflake and nobody else would want it and I would fail.

> I simply learned long ago that people who don't have skin in the game rarely give good game advice.

This is highly quotable.

God, I get that one, unsolicited, All. The. Time. It may be the only kind of unsolicited "idea for a product" I've ever gotten, actually.

"You make apps? I have a great app idea that'll make you rich! All of us in [profession] would use it! You see... [explains idea].... It would save me hours every week and no one's done it yet, for some reason!"

Me: searches the App Store You mean like any of these first five results that are all literally the exact thing you're describing, are targeted at your profession, and that you want sooooo much that you've never even bothered to search for it and plunk down consults screen $14.99?"

So true. My experience is that those people have "one weird requirement" that is unique to them that other tools don't include so instead of getting 90% of the the performance benefit, they'd rather complain and not change that one step. What they really want is for you to automate their exact current process. I had a friend of a friend pitch me something like that and they had the whole "and you can sell it to everyone in our industry". There were upset when I pointed out that no one else in that industry has their specific process and requirements. They just wanted it for free.

I had a very similar experience starting a (new) political party, of all things.

We had an "innovative" name, so we got loads of "You should change your name to X" and "You're not getting elected because you're named Z not Y".

Lots of my team was really worried about it. But I always told them to ask these people if that's the reason why they are not voting for us.

There were only two answers:

(1) "Nah, I'm still voting for you, but OTHER people MIGHT not."


(2) "Nah, i would not vote for you even if you were named X or Y"

It really taught me to stop assuming things.

Yeah, I learned this one watching Soylent, the meal-replacement drink: everyone was talking about it, saying how awful the name was. It clearly wasn't a bad name, though, because it made everyone talk about it, and nobody actually mistook the real product for the fictional namesake.

People make decisions at the margin. What you'll actually get is that a lot of people will become a small percentage less likely to buy it. Some of those people will be driven over the edge, since they were just barely going to buy it and now just barely weren't. But none of those people, when asked, will tell you "the stupid name was why we didn't buy it". At best they'll point to a lot of reasons of which the name is only one. At worst, they'll just point to a general sense of distrust that is 5% caused by the stupid name, and not even be able to analyze their own motivations well enough to answer the question.

In other words, "would you not buy/not vote because of this problem" is a bad method of analysis, and will tell you that it had no effect when it actually did.

Next to the wild success of the viral marketing campaign that sliver of people is completely insignificant. I'm sure the name did push a few people over the edge, but it pushed everyone to spread the word. Sure, you could postulate the existence of an alternative brand that was equally viral without the negative connotations -- but that would be nothing more than wishful thinking.

You might like Traction [1] by DuckDuckGo's founder. It has a similar no nonsense feel to it, but a broader scope of all around growth. I liked it so much I built an app [2] around the framework from in the book (with Gabriel's permission).

1 - https://www.amazon.com/Traction-Startup-Achieve-Explosive-Cu...

2 - https://www.wax.run

Traction is in my top 5 of non-fiction books.

[2] looks interesting

Thanks! If you want to give it a try, I'd like to get your feedback on the onboarding flow (it's still very new). Let me know, I'm mike@wax.run

Exactly! I think it is q bit over 100 pages (140) but still really short. It was recommended so many times to me so I really wanted to make a short summary.

The thing with separating complainers from customer is a great learning as well. If you just see complainers maybe the problem isn't that important ;)

Correct. It's 136p long. I remember it as no more than 85p. It's that good.

> If you just see complainers maybe the problem isn't that important ;)

Good point.

> And it's barely 100 pages long.

I'd like to quote this and add kudos for that. There's a lot of books that could be a blog post, needlessly padded out. 100 pages sounds a lot more manageable.

Most non-fiction books could be long essays at best.

Books are usually padded with needless repetition and anecdotes.

Really agree with this. If you have time I'd appreciate to hear some of your favourite high-value concise non-fiction books of any discipline...?

My other favorites are Traction, Peopleware and Made to Stick. However, they are 230+ pages long. Pretty consise, but I think they could have been shorter.

There aren't many non-fiction books that are 150p and less. Hmmm

a lot of scientific books are like that, for example the art of computer programming.

>> My favorite quote from it:

“Someone should definitely make an X!”

“Have you looked for an X?”

“No, why?”

Reminds me of the classic line and omition from the dating world:

"He's a great guy, he'd make a great husband." ... for somebody else.

Although not quite the same, this reminds me of a very simple trick many blind people are taught during training on how to navigate the city: Never ever ask "Is this line 4" if you want to know which tram just arrived. Ask "which line is this?" Simply because the first version will make many people answer "yeah yeah" without even looking. The second version forces them to actually answer your question with something other then yes/no.

This is a rule I heard for dealing with coworkers from some other backgrounds as well. In some cultures, the established norm is for junior staff to answer all boolean questions in the affirmative.

As in:

"Have you completed the task?"

"Yes!" -- no matter what

If instead you ask for a project completion sign-off document, you're forcing them to provide the answer you were actually looking for.

Always ask string return questions, got it.


I've always found "what's your progress on X?" or "how much have you gotten done on X?" to be better questions than "are you done with X?".

Also applies to buying used cars and other high value things.

Has it been regularly serviced?


Where do you take it for service? What date was it’s last major service?

Can confirm from around 10 years of customer support experience. Never ask close-ended question (yes/no), but open-ended ones. That is "what is the color of the motherboard" instead of "is the motherboard blue?".

As you and others pointed at out, this is a very general principle. It comes from the fact that close-ended questions sort of puts words in someone's mouth (the trick is sometimes used when you want a poll to yield a specific result).

Oh wow sounds terrible to lie to a blind person but makes totally sense.

It's also misunderstanding the question, either due to being stuck in thought of due to ambient noise. Absent-mindedly understanding the question as "is this the train?" or something would not surprise me.

A lot of people are also too afraid to say they don't understand or hear you, and will just go "yeah yeah". It's aggravating, but it's both real and no real ill intent behind it.

It’s not much a lie, it’s more of a way to quickly get someone to sod off. Still a shitty move.

Requiring a little effort makes quite a difference.

Case in point: https://youtube.com/watch?v=n3AGpvV7KLI

Also if there is no PA on public transport vehicles that announces which line it is as it’s approaching the stop, and it’s a city, not a small town or village, it’s quite a shitty city to be living in. Consider moving elsewhere.

If they can’t get their accessibility shit right, no way they’re going to have working snow plows in winter. Also the underground canals are gonna be so clogged that a mildly heavy rain will create fucking lakes and rivers on the streets.

I get your attitude, but I can't confirm. For one, I am not sure if you actually realize how much work it is to learn to navigate your environment blind in a city. Even if there is no PA, asking is a million times simpler then moving to another city, because, you know, if you move, you have to start all over again and will need at least a year until you can somewhat move freely in that new city again. Also, where I come from we are pretty used to snow. Its not quite far up north, but our snow plowing infrastructure works, and flooding isn't a common event either. So yeah, in general, I am on your side, I'd love to have a PA. But the truth is, in the two most largest cities in my country, there is none, so I have to resort to either knowing which line arrives where, or simply ask someone. I've gotten used to that. Also, I have a certain feeling that involving random strangers in accessibility issues is actually doing something for the society. It forces people to deal with the issues disabled people have.

I've been wondering on the pros and cons of interviewing customers vs. just putting something out there and seeing the reaction/getting a commitment.

There's a great book about the latter called "The Right It" by Alberto Savoia (a guy who used to work at Google to test business ideas). There he describes 8 different ways to test a biz idea:

- The Mechanical Turk – Replace complex and expensive computers or machines with human beings.

- The Pinocchio – Build a non-functional, “lifeless”, version of the product.

- The Minimum Viable Product (or Stripped Tease) – Create a functional version of it, but stripped down to its most basic functionality.

- The Provincial – Before launching world-wide, run a test on a very small sample.

- The Fake Door – Create a fake “entry” for a product that doesn’t yet exist in any form

- The Pretend-to-Own – Before investing in buying whatever you need for your it, rent or borrow it first.

- The Re-label – Put a different label on an existing product that looks like the product you want to create.

A ques to the author (I saw he commented here). What do you think are the pros and cons of interviewing people using the MOM framework vs. just putting something out there and getting feedback? Often people give very different feedback when you ask them questions vs. present something and ask for skin in the game.

> pros and cons of interviewing people using the MOM framework

I gave a fuller answer elsewhere in the thread (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=28669204), but it's highly reliant on the specifics of your idea/industry/bizmodel.

B2C and '10x improvement' style ideas tend to need to lead with a prototype (although you ideally first do enough discovery conversations to understand what they're already doing and why). The early product iteration is what Uber got right and Segway got wrong, and it's why the best videogame studios (like Blizzard 10+ years ago) always begin with prototypes of isolated core game mechanics, iterating those ruthlessly until they feel "crunchy" (the game industry term for immediately rewarding interactions).

Whereas ideas that are solving a well-defined, unsolved problem (which is way more common in niche B2B and the sorts of ideas that you'd bootstrap toward) can be pretty fully validated with ONLY conversation, which is obviously extremely quick and quite advantageous.

Apart from those two big categories, there are a million edge cases where the whole suite of approaches you mention can feel like a (somewhat situational) superpower.

Rob's book is fantastic. I remember reading a very early version when it first came out. I'm very pleased to see that it has steadily become more popular over the years.

Another great new book on the same topic is Deploy Empathy by Michele Hansen. Michele goes even deeper with lots of practical tips, scripts, and templates. I highly recommend it, especially if you liked The Mom Test - https://deployempathy.com.

Cool will definitely add it to my list. Thanks!

There have been a handful of books like this that I think are so key and probably not very contraversial but then I see so many companies who fail because they don't approach things in this way - perhaps they don't know about the book, perhaps they think they know better etc.

It would be great imho to replace the venerable but probably overpriced and ineffective MBA with a modern equivalent that takes on board the sort of training and experience you would get from places like YC, some of the well known investors etc. so that we would end up with something that we could say, "if you want to start a business, you really need to go on this course".

It could be distance/part-time/whatever but it would ensure that business people have the correct skills and tools for the job so that they give themselves the biggest chance of success.

The Mom Test, the entire book, is a couple hour read... honestly if you have any interest at all in selling or building (or simply work at a startup) it's worth reading the whole thing, and not a summarized recap... the book itself is summarized.

You're completely right thats what I say as well. If you're interested in this topic, read it it is barely 140 pages long. But I think a summary can be a good intro and a good learning for me as well :-)

The mom test is one of those books that have a lot of good advice. Most summaries are quite bad and led me to think the book itself was bad, but thankfully, this is a good one.

Thank you for that! I really recommend reading the whole thing but I think a summary is really good to have as well. Rob did an awesome job here :)

Nice read thanks!

In the same vein of gathering good data and finding the resonating solution to customers problems, Small Data[1] by Martin Lindstrom is another great read with a sociological approach, focused on branding but nonetheless on entrepreneurship also.

[1] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Small_Data

Looks really interesting! Added it to my list, thanks :-)

It's a great book, I really enjoyed it. I made some concise notes on each chapter on my blog https://johnmathews.is/mom-test.html

That's helpful, thanks!

These are really good notes as well thank you for sharing!

you are welcome :)

One useful thing about summaries for good high information density books like Rob's[0] is that they're a good way to help anchor information found in the book. Which will help you remember the key points in context.

They also present you with alternative takes which can sometimes help in seeing the information from an alternative viewpoint which can also be really valuable.

So from that perspective even though there's some ground covered by a summary, I don't think of them as a replacement for a well written book.

-[0]: It's a good book, if you've not done so read it! http://momtestbook.com/

Talking to Humans is another great book in this genre. Short and succinct, with useful examples.

Cool thanks will definitely take a look +1

If you have no sales skills, asking if someone would by it or how much they’d pay merely soothes your ego.

If you understand what the customer needs, the customer has money, and you know how to sell then you are going to make money. If you have no sales skills then no amount of assurance will result in sales.

I met a young founder who had an obviously bad business plan. I asked if she had customers. She said “no, but businesses said they’d buy it”. I told her to go get a check from those customers, refundable if she didn’t deliver. Not one gave her money. I’m sorry that wake up call came so late in development for her.

I've actually added The Mom Test to my recommended reading list for direct reports, since it helps a lot in requirements gathers from both internal and external customers.

That is a cool idea! How is the feedback from your reports so far?

I did a summary of my own here: https://www.chestergrant.com/summary-the-mom-test-by-rob-fit...

Well more like highlights that I found interesting. It is definitely on my top list of books for entrepreneurship. You should get a copy and read at least once a year, very insightful.

That is a nice idea of a summary and highlights as well. I thought about visualising the final cheat sheet as well :)

what is better than talking to customers is shutting up and watching them. they will tell you X and then do Y.

The mom test is the product validation book I get the most recommendations about. This is a lovely summary of it

Yes me too. It was recommend so often that I thought creating a summary is a good idea ;-)

I definitely recommend reading this one. It helped me how to talk to my clients and also how to talk with other people. It totally changes your perspective and how you tackle conversations.

Indeed. And you find yourself so often just talking about the wrong things instead of really looking at the problem.

this assumes that your business can only succeed if you solve a problem. you don’t need to solve a problem to make a lot of money. people buy things they don’t need all the time. all you need to do is make something they want and whether they want to pay for it. this might not need any conversation with customers at all.

We used the blueprint within this group to learn from 6000 signups. It led to us (Budibase) pivoting and saving countless hours and money, but most importantly, it's helped us reduce stress, build a better product, and deliver exactly what our users need.

Huge appreciation - thank you! Joe (cofounder of Budibase)

Fantastic read, I highly recommend it if you are trying to talk to customers.

It's tragic that we have to resort to these techniques because our culture has become so averse to offering honest feedback. It wasn't always this way.


I think the author's intention was to give people a quick way to understand what they were talking about. I agree that it would have been better if they said "The Mom and Dad Test" or "The Parent Test". But I thought their analogy was very salient and I understood it quickly.

Any perceived hostility may come from your very uncharitable read of the the title. The reference isn't any mom, and there isn't any suggestion that moms can't be programmers or are clueless in any way.

The reference is your own mom, who will tell you that your idea is great, even if it's not. You're swinging at shadows.

> A better title would just be "How to talk to customers."

Hard disagree. That title doesn’t capture the reader’s attention and it’s also less descriptive of the main point of the book.

> It's intellectually unfortunate that there's so much kneejerk hostility on HN to basic gender analysis. One's understanding of the world is enriched by thinking about how gender roles work, so the hostility to gender analysis is basically throwing away useful knowledge.

I hope this comment will be seen as constructive rather than hostile: Personally while I was initially sympathizing to the cause of inclusiveness, I have now developed hostile feelings simply because this constant presence has made me tired. There is no place on the internet or IRL (at least where I live) where you won't stumble on these things. I am not interested about any of the gender stuff, I have been sure of what I am and what I am not since I can remember myself, so all this constant presence makes me tired, and it frankly feels like propaganda trying to forcefully change me into something I'm not. So pushing so agressivly an agenda that to the majority of people is irrelevant (and I believe this is true otherwise we wouldn't exist as a species), I am actually surprised of how little hostility is received.

As a point of method: We can and should distinguish "What the author intended" from "what is the unintended side effect of this use of language."

I'm explicitly not commenting on what the author intended to mean by this title choice (yes, a "person who is uncritically affirmative"). (I have absolutely no axe to grind with the author either, just for the record!)

But generally speaking, it's fair to comment on the unintended side effects of someone's use of language, because there are always side effects when we use language. That's how language is -- it exceeds our intentions, because it's a legacy tool with generations of unexplored cultural baggage, to put it in an idiom that software folks might appreciate.

The article is using “mom” as an example of a person who is supportive and uncritical of you, not as an example of someone who doesn’t know what’s going on.

Naming something "The Mom Test" in the current political environment is a choice.

Is "is a choice" something the kids are saying these days? Never heard that expression.

At any rate, at first I was worried that this was a sexist-agist reference, but in fact it's not at all. "Mom" is just used to represent someone who doesn't want to hurt your feelings.

Yep. I thought the same thing originally, and then realized it's nothing of the sort. That I so quickly jumped to that assumption says more about me than the author :(

Exactly in this case "Mom" just refers to a person who doesn't want to hurt your feelings and just tells you that every idea is awesome ;)

The idea that mom (but not dad?) will lie to you in order not to hurt your feelings surely reflects biases about gender (aka sexism, albeit a mild form).

The non biased version would use "parent" not "mom".

Is there any combination of words in the English language for a book title "in the current political environment" that would be beyond reproach?

I Wrote This Book

There are many options.

"Centering yourself at the expense of the many others who contributed to the production and distribution of the book. Many of whom are PoC, you racist pig."

Seriously, intelligent people who want to find fault with something can usually do it, given a flexible-enough fault-finding toolset. Which we have.

No worries; I made sure to run through a publisher who exclusively employs whites.

Why? It is still true. Maybe in the future it won't be, but currently 99.99% of moms in this planet are not tech savvy, whether we like it or not. Remember that moms being born in the 1930s are still out there - not everything written has some hidden political intention. As we move forward, if more women happen to get interested into technology, this might change. But until then, jumping on someone for the sake of political correctness - because there may be a tech-savvy mom somewhere out there that you decided to defend, or because it shouldn't be true in your ideal world - is toxic. And as you see people are downvoting you for being this kind of person.

well, not all people live in the US


The risk hbeckpdx fears is:

1. Someone hasn't read the book and only glanced at the title.

2. That someone assumes the book says "test things on your mom, because there's nobody less tech-savvy than an older woman, yo momma so dumb she thinks a hamburger menu is something you get at McDonalds"

3. That someone, hoping to be an ally in the fight against gender and age discrimination in tech, takes offence at what they imagine the book says.

4. A mob of people who also haven't read the book destroy your career.

Of course, we've got like 4 levels of hypothetical here - you're reading me, putting words into hbeckpdx's mouth, who is imagining an easily offended third party, who is imagining the contents of the book, which they imagine is offensive to a hypothetical mom. Whether you agree with hbeckpdx that this is a reasonable thing to fear is another question....

> yo momma so dumb she thinks a hamburger menu is something you get at McDonalds

I think this says more about the intelligence of the person who decided that Ξ is obviously a picture of a hamburger.

I'm pretty sure that was the point, yes.

Call it the 'dad test' then. Or even the 'sibling test' - because they're probably not technology experts.

It literally means 'regular person test'...

> It literally means 'regular person test'...

The whole point is that it doesn't mean "regular person test'...

It means "person who isn't the target customer and who probably cares about you too much to give unbiased feedback" test.

Who are you calling a regular person? As if other people aren’t regular? How dare you. /s

If somebody wants to be offended by combinations of words, no combination of words will deter them.

Honestly, neither "mom test", "dad test", or "regular person test" gives me any idea whatsoever what this might be about.

> she thinks a hamburger menu is something you get at McDonalds

That's not incorrect though.

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