Track Changes

By Postlight

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Description

What happens when software eats the world? Industry veterans Paul Ford and Rich Ziade chat with their friends about technology, design, and business from a distinctly East Coast point of view. Decades of experience inform their no-BS, quick-witted patter about what digital transformation really means. Created by Postlight, the digital product studio they co-founded in New York City

Episode Date
The Design System Has To Reflect The Business : Paul and Rich on Twitter’s Redesign
34:08

Without the user there is no product: When Twitter rolled out its new design, many users were upset with the new changes, but what comes first, the product or the user? On this week’s episode Paul and Rich sit down to chat about Twitter’s redesign. We share our reactions to the changes and delve into questions of user consultation. Also featured in this week’s episode is the second installment of our new segment Hello Postlight. In it we hear from Aimée Reed, Postlight’s Director of Product Design, who talks about where she finds inspiration for her work (Hint: get out of the house!).

Links: 

Twitter 

The Web Is a Customer Service Medium by Paul Ford 

Aimée Reed

Barbara Kruger 

Geoff Teehan

Aug 13, 2019
Playing with Fire: Why Email is a Dangerous Game
36:04

What's the purpose of Email today? This week Paul and Rich sit down to discuss the monster that email has become. Email has transitioned away from a place to have conversation and become a function that eventually moves to another platform (usually Slack). So what is email's real purpose? Do all meaningful conversations need to happen face-to-face? Can we collectively put an end to the eight-paragraph email? We answer these questions and share the top 5 worst email subject lines (Hint: "You have a minute?" is up there!)

Aug 07, 2019
You Don't Release Software, You Let It Escape: Paul and Rich on Shipping
29:10

To ship or not to ship: Software is never ready, but sometimes you have to ship it. This week Paul and Rich sit down to talk about the difficulties of shipping software. We share tips on how to deal with numerous stakeholders and engineers so that you can release software on time. We also talk about the importance of setting deadlines and draw some parallels between software and Las Vegas buffets. 

Links: 

General Magic 

Tinysheet by Postlight

Jul 30, 2019
Do Humans Need Privacy: Paul and Rich on Superhuman and Zoom
27:23

Do Digital Boundaries Exist?: This week Paul and Rich sit down to talk about this week’s tech scandals. We chat about the security flaws found within email client Superhuman and teleconference software Zoom. Do these companies have an obligation to protect their client’s information? Should usability trump security? Do we have a right to be angry? If that's not enough, we also chat about summer BBQs.

Links

Mike Davidson: Superhuman is Spying on You

Superhuman

Zoom

Jul 23, 2019
Content Management for Enterprise : A conversation with Percolate’s Noah Brier
26:56

Technology is not a panacea: This week Paul and Rich sit down with Noah Brier, who explains to us why technology cannot solve all of our problems. Noah has done countless interviews with enterprises about their tech needs, and has created content marketing software for large enterprises. He shares his insights on current enterprise software trends and gives us some tips on how to better market our business. Pro tip: traditional marketing like billboards and taxi top ads give the most bang for your buck! 

 

Links: 

Percolate

Noah Brier’s Blog 

Jul 16, 2019
Creating Need: Paul and Rich put a critical lens on new industry trends
19:59

Digital Transformation is like a Horoscope: In this week’s episode, Paul and Rich sit down to discuss need creation and the tech industry's move to talk about trends in such abstract language that it seems like it applies to everybody. We chat about the relationship between service providers and tech research firms and why you should be suspicious of new industry buzzwords and complex acronyms. Reminder: it’s okay to ask what that new acronym means!

Jul 09, 2019
Resilient Management: A conversation with management expert Lara Hogan
27:07

Focus on Core Needs: Lara Hogan knows and loves management so she wrote a book about it. This week she joins Paul and guest host Gina Trapani to chat about her new book and about leadership in the workplace. Lara breaks down her framework for managing different types of people and gives tips on how to adapt your management style. She also gives Paul some useful advice on where he should sit in the office and explains why moving desks can be so traumatic.   

 

LINKS:

Lara Hogen - Resilient Management 

Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard 

 

Jul 02, 2019
Software Centralization vs. Decentralization: Which is best?
24:22

One size never fits all: This week Paul and Rich discuss two of the need to decentralize or centralize software platforms. Worried about the dozens of unintegrated platforms that have appeared over the years? Feeling restrained by the old legacy software system you’re using? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. We give some tips on how to move forward when dealing with these issues and how to avoid them in the future. Hint: get a product manager, develop a product roadmap, and be cautious of giant pieces of software that claim to solve all your problems.  

Jun 25, 2019
Getting People To Click: A Conversation With Banner Ad Expert Al Rotches
30:40

Don’t hide what you want people to do: is the advice that Al Rotches gives Paul and Rich about online advertising. Al has built a career on making banner ads for clients like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. On this week’s episode, we chat with Al about how he gets people to engage online with his ads. He shares his insights about the importance of ad placement and about why most banner ads are so horrible. He also gives us some advice on how big and what colour the button should be on your ad. Hint: it should be big and stay away from red!

 

Links:

Al Rotches’ Website

Barack Obama’s Banner Ads

Jun 18, 2019
Improving Slack: The Postlight team on developing their new product Dash
29:29

No more slapdash, we want Slack-Dash: Ever get bogged down by a neverending Slack thread where few decisions ever get made? On this week’s episode of Track Changes we hear about a new Slack app that solves this very problem. Paul and Rich sit down with fellow Postlight employees Matt Quintanilla and Phil Johnson to chat about Dash, the app they developed that helps you organize your teams and deadlines in Slack. Matt and Phil tell us about why and how they created this new app and why it can be used for anything from preparing for a meeting to wedding planning.

 

Links:

Get Dash

More about Postlight Labs

Jun 11, 2019
Stop Touching It: Paul and Rich on Software Updates
23:55

Is this really necessary?: This week Paul and Rich sit down to discuss the current culture surrounding software updates. Are constant software updates necessary? Are they improving the user experience or complicating it? We chat about our love/hate relationship with updates and get to hear Paul compare Spotify to a shapeshifting witch!

Links:

Updating Spotify

Postlight Labs

 

Jun 04, 2019
Technical Definitions: A conversation with Wordnik’s founder Erin McKean
35:49

Improworsement: is an improvement that makes things worse, and Erin McKean knows all about that. She's wanted to create dictionaries since the age of eight and this year she is celebrating the 10th anniversary of Wordnik, an online dictionary she helped create that has grown to 10 times the size of the Oxford English Dictionary. This week Paul and Rich sit down with Erin to discuss the evolution of Wordnik, from its humble beginnings in PHP to developing a full scalable API. Erin shares the challenges she’s faced, both technical and financial, and gives us tips on how to deal with failure. She also helps us expand our vocabulary and answers the difficult question: what is the best word?

 

Links:

Wordnik

TED Talk - Erin McKean: Go ahead, make up new words!

Wordnik on Twitter

 

May 28, 2019
Dear Technology, We Still Love You : Paul and Rich Come to Tech’s Defense
21:45

Technology, You’ve Changed: For years, the conversations we’ve had about tech have focused on the negative. We’ve all heard about how tech giants have infiltrated our politics and our privacy, we’ve ridiculed the power-hungry people behind the platforms we love, but that’s not the technology industry Paul and Rich fell in love with. On today’s episode, we look at where we’re at right now, we ask ourselves if tech giants want to be ethical, and we try to defend an incredibly difficult and powerful industry. We also hear Paul’s top-three favourite tech things!

 

LINKS

May 21, 2019
The Problem with Software: A Conversation With Former Microsoft Programmer Adam Barr
29:13

Don’t go chasing easy answers: This week Paul and Rich are joined by Microsoft veteran Adam Barr to speak about his new book, The Problem with Software. Barr worked as a programmer for Microsoft for over 20 years and during this time he saw a number of troubling patterns in software development. We chat with Adam about what’s changed in the industry over the years and about the need for better education for programmers. Adam also gives us an inside scoop on what it was like working for Microsoft in the old days and draws some parallels between Microsoft management and baseball. This episode is a homerun!  

Links:

The Problem with Software: Why Smart Engineers Write Bad Code

Adam David Barr on Twitter

May 14, 2019
Stepping Away to Think Better: Paul and Rich on Making Time for Creative Thinking
19:40

Prioritize growth and allow for risk: This week Paul and Rich come back from holiday to discuss the best ways to encourage creative thinking. We uncover the relationship between reducing clutter and problem solving. We discuss the importance of deadlines and prioritization as tools to better organize your thoughts and make time for the things that matter.

We also discuss the paradoxical trick for better growth and productivity: stepping away from our computer screens rather than towards them.

May 07, 2019
Reflecting on Gmail 15 Years Later
33:16

Email sucks: On this week’s episode of Track Changes, Paul Ford and Gina Trapani reflect on how Gmail has revolutionized email over the past fifteen years. We recall the many iterations the platform has gone through—going all the way back to the days when it was invite only— and discuss the many flaws that still remain. Is there ever going to be a productive solution to deal with that ever growing pile of emails?

 

Links:

Superhuman: The Fastest Email Experience Ever Made

Lifehacker: The Guide to Working Smarter, Faster and Better

Apr 30, 2019
Marketing Funnels : You’re Just A Cog In The Machine
33:53

This week on Track Changes, Paul and Rich sit down with a live studio audience to discuss funnels. Lately, Salesforce and Mailchimp seem to be everywhere, from the buildings around us to the platforms we’re creating for clients. How can we integrate sales funnels without destroying user trust? Can we understand the immense economy underneath each online click? What does this mean for the future of the platforms we create? Spoiler: Paul created an acronym to help us out!

LINKS

Apr 23, 2019
Chasing Paper in a Digital World
22:31

Beyond metaphors and into the digital future : In 1973, Xerox PARC introduced the Xerox Alto. It was the first computer to support an operating system based on a graphical user interface. This began the desktop metaphor; the computer monitor as if it were the top of the user's desk. Forty-six years later, the metaphor lives on. We talk about files and documents— even when there’s nothing to print. Why are we still hung up on the desktop? Can we imagine a digital future free of off-screen comparisons? Paul and Rich ponder the possibility, and more.

Links:

Apr 16, 2019
Levelling the Playing Field: A Look at the Spotify-Apple feud
20:06

The battle over the App Store is far from over: In March Spotify launched Time to Play Fair, a website outlining how Apple mistreats companies like Spotify by charging excessive fees, blocking upgrades and promoting its own services in its App Store. Shortly after, Apple fired back in a press release, making the case that Spotify’s claims are misleading

This week, Paul and Rich weigh in on the squabble. Is Apple really muscling in on Spotify? How symbiotic is their relationship? Why is Spotify making this case now? What are the implications of opting into the platform economy?

Links:

Apr 09, 2019
Learning to Code to Understand Technology | A Conversation with Andrew Smith
32:39

Why Go In?:  On today’s episode of Track Changes, Rich and Paul sit down with Andrew Smith, a journalist and writer who recently learned to code. We talk about following curiosity, and learning to program in a world where almost everything we interact with is mediated by code. We discuss Andrew’s pivot from writing about music and culture, to technology and high-finance, and dissect what that says about our lives today. We also get some insight into Andrew’s most recent research into the kids who ran the internet through 1995 - 2000 (Spoiler: the reasons behind the dot-com crash are a sham!).

 

LINKS

Andrew Smith https://andrewsmithauthor.com/splash/

Andrew on twitter https://twitter.com/wiresmith?lang=en

Moon Dust : In Search of the Men Who Fell to Earth https://www.amazon.com/Moondust-Search-Men-Fell-Earth-ebook/dp/B005EJKRDM

Douglas Rushkoff https://rushkoff.com/

Real Player https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RealPlayer

Quincy Larson https://twitter.com/ossia

Free Code Camp https://www.freecodecamp.org/

Apr 02, 2019
Managing At My Worst and At My Best
24:24

It is always a negotiation: This week on Track Changes, Paul and Rich discuss how to be a good manager and leader of people. We compare past experiences we’ve had as managers at our worst and best selves, and what we’ve learned from them (Tip: do not passive aggressively go in!). We discuss the importance of building a culture of speed and execution from the beginning, and how to foster conversation around timelines and scope. Paul and Rich also give tips on how to push back on a manager’s demands, in the right way.

 

Rich— 2:11: “Consensus and discussion and dialogue around decisions are really important. But as a leader, sometimes you actually want to apply a little pressure … and applying that pressure means there is less dialogue.”

Paul— 7:26: “You are always caught between do I mentor this person and give them a model of thinking that they can apply or do I tell them what I need to get done and assume that they will figure it out later.”

Paul— 13:21: “It really is a negotiation. If you firmly believe that anything less than 6 weeks completely is a risk, then you have to come back to me and say, ‘we have got to cut scope’. We don’t want to fail and be humiliated in public.”

Rich— 16:54: “The best advice I can give [to someone with a manager]… is pause and think about what are the motivations that are creating that pressure. … if you pause and think about those motivators, then a) you start to empathize with why you’re getting that pressure and b) you can actually have dialogue when you are talking to your manager about that pressure. It actually opens up their thinking and they start to see a leader, in you.”

Mar 26, 2019
It’s Good To Be The Idiot: A Conversation on 3D and Diving Into New Technology
32:53

Turning the universal mouse button on its head: this week, Paul and Rich discuss the importance of getting into new skills and unlearning old habits. We look at Rich’s new interest in Blender, how it’s led to him making a beautiful hotdog, and the time it takes to learn how to use a 6 button mouse (spoiler: it doesn’t take long!). We talk about how the phone is the new computer and what that means for the future of the desktop. We also invite you all to attend our live podcast taping on April 11th at Postlight!

Links:

  • blender https://www.blender.org/
  • blender guru https://www.blenderguru.com/
  • the architecture of open source applications http://aosabook.org/en/index.html
  • net logo https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NetLogo
  • jupyter https://jupyter.org/
  • raspberry pi https://www.raspberrypi.org/
  • little bits  https://shop.littlebits.com
  • logitech MX Anywhere 2 https://support.logitech.com/en_us/product/mx-anywhere2
Mar 19, 2019
Letting Design Function: Product Designers Talk Relay
33:15

Good design doesn’t have to be complex: Like many, Rich feels like a bit of an outsider when it comes to design. To non-designers, the field can seem confusing, at times even intimidating. But it doesn't have to be like this way. At Postlight, design drives the process, and in this episode we break down that process.

 

Paul and Rich are joined by Postlight’s directors of product design, Skyler Balbus and Matt Quintanilla, who lead Relay, the Postlight design sprint. What is a design sprint? What makes good design? What role should it play in product development? And what makes a great product designer? The team answers these questions and more.

 

Links:

Mar 12, 2019
What if Al Capone wrote C+? : Evan Ratliff on the The Mastermind, Paul Le Roux
30:29

Can a reclusive coder become a criminal mastermind?: Journalist and author Evan Ratliff spent four years piecing together the story of Paul Le Roux, a programmer who began by selling hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of painkillers through an online prescription drug network— but he didn't settle. The rest of Le Roux’s story spirals into a grim parody of startup culture not even a novelist could’ve dreamed up.

In this episode Paul and Rich sit down with Ratliff to discuss his new book, The Mastermind, the true account of the decade-long pursuit of Le Roux. What happens when expertise on information security and internet infrastructure falls into the wrong hands? What could have become of the villainous tech-savvy entrepreneur? What can the tech world take away from this eerie chain of events?

Links:

Mar 05, 2019
Back to Words: Getting Past Clutter Online
27:48

The web is a mess, and it’s getting messier: This is something you know if you read articles online. Close the pop-up, scroll past the ads, and click ‘next page’ to finish the piece. You’re right, it shouldn’t have to be this hard. In 2009, Rich hacked together simple bookmarklet called Readability, which would turn a cluttered article page into the essentials— a headline, headers, images, and the article.

The project’s impact is undeniable. After more than five years of operation, Readability was shut down and replaced by Postlight’s Mercury Toolkit, a lighter, more flexible open-source web parser. In this episode Paul and Rich are joined by Postlight developer Adam Pache to talk about the online battle over usability, Python versus JavaScript, knowing when to go open source, and contributing to Mercury.

Links:

Feb 26, 2019
What Harper Reed Thinks: A Conversation With Obama’s Former CTO
34:19

A Creative Path to Find What's Next :  Harper Reed could have listed his many accomplishments on the historical monument he installed in his parents’ front yard. It could have said that he founded Modest, a mobile retail startup eventually acquired by Paypal, or that he was CTO of Threadless and the 2012 reelection campaign of Barack Obama. Instead, he and his brother Dylan chose to commemorate their exploration of Uranus.

It’s no wonder Rich often hears Paul say “I wonder what Harper Reed would think”. In this episode, we find out; the pair talk to Harper about his dad’s Apple IIc, coming of age during “the most rapid capital expansion in the history of the universe”, political tech, mobile commerce, and what comes next for the defiant technologist.

 

Links

Feb 19, 2019
Click to Add Title: Making a Better Pitch Deck
27:29

Less is more: There’s nothing cool or sexy about a pitch deck. Business folk love them. They’re meant to convince the viewer of something. Some people have a talent for producing them, but most need a bit of guidance. Like them or not, pitch decks run the world— and making a good one may not be as straightforward as you think.

How do you make a purposeful, beautiful, even entertaining deck? Years of appealing to large clients has taught Paul and Rich a thing or two about creating a cogent presentation. In this episode, the two expound some of their knowledge; balancing words with images, the density of your information, understanding your audience and your message, and the power of great design.

 

Links:

Feb 12, 2019
Playing it Safe: Authentication in 2019
23:56

It isn’t Glamorous, But it’s Critical. In this episode, Paul and Rich explore a time-consuming component of product development: Authentication.

You know the drill. You save time and having to memorize another pesky password by using Google or Facebook to log on to a website. But is the proliferation of external authentication providers on the web a good thing or not? Which companies should invest in setting up their own authentication system, and which ones should save their web developers and online visitors the hassle? (Spoiler: Banks should. Any group set growing an audience should not.)

The pair also discuss the merits of Facebook, the difference between being a free and a paying Google customer, and why password managers are a godsend.

Bonus: Rich discovers that his email has fallen foul to multiple data breaches, and is cool with it.

Links:

LastPass

1Password

Have I been pwned?

Feb 05, 2019
How Can Data Drive Digital Journalism?: A Conversation With Chartbeat’s Josh Schwartz
27:56

Behind Every Great Media Outlet Is Clever Analytics Software:This week Rich and Paul speak to Josh Schwartz, chief of product at Chartbeat, the content analytic ssoftware used by media heavy weights across the globe, including The New York Times, CNN and The Washington Post.

Which stories work and which ones tank? Do media organizations really need to pivot to video? Is the online quiz dead? Do numbers in a headline matter? Should analytics drive content? Josh talks to Rich and Paul about how Chartbeat’s real-time web traffic reports help editors entice and retain online readers. He also gives his take on operating in a post-GDPR world and on how effective pop-up data collection warnings are. The trio also muse on the future of the data dashboard.

Chartbeat

EU General Data Protection Regulation

What the GDPR Means For US Brands

Does journalism have a future?

Jan 29, 2019
So You Want To Work With An Agency : How They Get You
20:38

Fear, Flattery and Word Salad: In this week’s episode, Paul and Rich spill (not-so-secret) insider secrets and discuss what businesses should be wary of when hiring a digital agency.

Analytics change, as does the in-house vision for a product. How can you ensure that your agency will accommodate the dynamic development process while staying within your budget? Why is it important to remain on equal ground with your agency–and what has that got to do with acronyms?

At what point is it important to worry about scaling? And why should businesses be wary of suggestions that are a little too on-trend? From demanding transparency, communicating clearly, sniffing out flattery, and ensuring that all proposals–no matter how shiny–are entrenched in your core business needs, Paul and Rich have got you covered.

Jan 22, 2019
Flamethrowers, Pinterest, and Global Connectivity: Looking Forward to 2019
26:06

Conversations are Terrible. Podcasts are Good: 2018 was a rough year for technology in the popular mind. We look at what went wrong to see how it can inform the future tech of 2019.

We could say that 2019 is about accepting the fact that we’re all doomed. Or, in keeping with our theme of optimism, we could look forward to things like 5G networks, better machine learning, and the continued success of Pinterest and Etsy. What does Etsy have that Facebook doesn’t? How can we all accept that community moderation is necessary? Will this years advancements in machine learning lead to better, cheaper, and faster hardware? How can we stay optimistic when competing with the giant platforms like Google and Facebook?

 

LINKS

Jan 15, 2019
Digital Problem Solving with Perry Hewitt
32:36

Tradition and the Digital Age: On this episode of Track Changes, we sit down with Perry Hewitt, the former Chief Digital Officer of Harvard University (ever heard of it?) to break down the duties of her job. 

Perry talks about what it’s like stepping into that role in an institution that emphasizes history and tradition. When Harvard adapts to digital, what kind of problems need to be solved? How do you measure the health of their digital properties? How do you make Harvard look good? We discuss the difference between data informed versus data driven marketing, as well as the blurring lines between product development and marketing. Perry argues that so much of the marketing now is within the product itself — so which end involves deep customer engagement and which involves building a relationship? How does education play a role, and to what end? Why does Rich regard marketing with suspicion? Lastly, Perry sums up the role of CDO by identifying three major points: Building consensus, scoping appropriately, and delivering early. We can get behind that.

Curious about what Postlight can do for you? Hit us up at hello@postlight.com. 

Jan 08, 2019
2018 in Review : Tech, Geopolitics, and Fortnite Dances
31:03

Cultural Dialogue is The Person Of The Year: People, corporations, and governments expressed their hesitation and suspicion towards tech in 2018. Is Facebook demolishing the pillars of society? Is your child doing Fortnite dances? Where has blockchain landed among ordinary people? On this week's episode we talk about the tech that stood out in 2018 and look at what changed for us internally.

We had Postlight's third year anniversary and have continued growing. We have a little more process and a defined culture. We made a concerted effort to move beyond media into other sectors, and we learned that while relinquishing control feels counterintuitive to running a business, it’s crucial to the physics of growth. Oh yeah, we also released Upgrade!, our how-to for digital transformation.

All of us at Postlight wish you a very happy holiday and a great New Year. We’ll see you in 2019.

 

LINKS

Dec 18, 2018
Meeting the First Promise : How Showing Value is Your Most Valuable Political Tool
23:28

Why Do People Want To See Others Fail? This week on Track Changes, we take a look at the power dynamics that play out when we go into big companies to solve problems and ship software. What happens when organizations show that they don’t want our help after they’ve brought us on? Why are people resistant to scaling? Is it because we’re taking all the cool jobs?

There are three ways to overcome that: Firstly, use your advocate. Let them lead. Somebody brought you here. Your failure is their failure; your success is their success. Second, establish your mandate and keep it brief. Memorize it! This is your best defense against tweaks, delays, and edge cases. Lastly, meet your first promise. Ship early, ship often, and show value. There’s a currency exchange from great design to political capital.

Rich values this advice at $720,000. All listeners will be invoiced.

Dec 11, 2018
Design Gestures With Extraordinary Impact : A Conversation With Allan Chochinov
42:46

There’s a Difference Between School and Real Life: This week on Track Changes, Paul and Rich sit down with Allan Chochinov, chair of the MFA in Products of Design program at the School of Visual Arts and founder of design network Core77. We talk about who is really teachable, building good design from huge problems, the vast applications of "design thinking", and how much time is wasted on meetings.

Allan shares two incredible medical UX-design moments that he's witnessed— building an at home diagnostic tool for HIV testing and creating a quick-attach prosthetic limb. Both of these scenarious required empathy towards consumer experiences and pragmatism. These small design gestures can have a big impact.

 

Paul Ford You’re a— you’re a sensitive, in touch person.

Rich Ziade [Crosstalk] Are you in your fifties, Allan?

Allan Chochinov I am, yeah.

PF It’s a little—

RZ You look great!

PF [Crosstalk] When you realize . . .

AC I’m gonna be 57 soon.

PF Yeah.

RZ What?!?

PF I know— it’s [snickers] we’ve had this conversation.

RZ Oh he’s had LSD—

PF Look at the beautiful hair—

AC My mom’s— [inaudible over crosstalk]

PF Yeah, some grey. Some grey.

RZ I— I can’t see his face right now but the forehead is tremendous.

PF No, no. Alan just won a lottery on this front.

RZ Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. Are we recording?

PF We are. We’re talking about—

RZ Steph, feel free to put this stuff in [laughter].

PF [Chuckling] We’re talking about how handsome Allan is [voices fade out, music fades in, plays alone for 18 seconds, ramps down]. Allan Chochinov, a key person in New York City tech and design for a long, long time. Let’s talk about that in a minute but the first thing to talk about, really, is you run a program at the school of visual arts.

[0:56]

AC Yup.

PF What is the name of that program?

AC Uh [music fades out] the name is MFA in Products of Design.

PF Ok. That— [yeah] ok. Let’s break that down a little bit [laughs].

AC We should. We intended for it to be uh future proof and [uh huh] it actually came true because— well, I mean the idea was that everything is a product of design [mm hmm]. So each and every kind of design: uh graphic design; industrial design; service design; interaction design, social innovation design; tons of business design—

PF So a new design— like, you know, suddenly there’s a new kind of way—

AC Well, yeah, radically, you know, multidisciplinary or generalist anyway [ok] but what’s interesting is people see the word product design they think that we’re an industrial design program and we do teach industrial design—

PF Like make a teapot kind [yeah] of thing, yeah.

AC But the fortunate thing is that, I guess about four or five years ago interaction designers kind of like stole the term product design from [snickers] industrial designers—

PF Actually that’s— boy, we did, didn’t we?

AC Which is— it’s either like funny or heartbreaking depending on which side you’re on.

PF No, it’s funny for us. Yeah. We’re— we’re enjoyin’ it.

AC So many of my colleagues spent their whole lives trying to, you know, help people understand what an industrial designer was, you know you would— you would say well, “We’re— we design product.” [Oh!] Product design. That was easier. Now it’s just like, “Oh, what platform? Facebook?”

PF [Exhales hard] We destroyed everything with that—

RZ “We” is a lot—

PF No. But you know how many times have we said “product design”?

RZ We jumped on it. We did jump on it.

[2:17]

PF Yeah.

AC You know? Many people have said everything is interaction design, everything experience design. So—

PF It’s true.

AC Alright.

PF Alright, so tell us a little bit— this program, it’s a graduate program?

AC Yup.

PF And it has how many students—

AC There’s about 18 students a year. Uh it’s single track; every student takes every course, uh no grades which is really helpful uh cuz we want maximum risk and, you know, it’s point of departure is that uh and, you know, we’re really upfront about this that like everything’s broken. And so that everything can be uh reimagined. We’re I wouldn’t say cynical about best practices but we’re certainly interested in doing things in a way that we haven’t gotten good at doing them.

PF You gave me a piece of advice once um [uh oh] um that— No. It was very, very valuable. It was just that there’s a real difference between life and school.

AC Yeah.

PF And that when you’re in school and you’re learning that’s not practicing for the real world, exactly, it’s not like, “Here: learn these incredibly necessary skills for tomorrow,” some of that has to be there but for the most part it’s like, “Let’s break things; let’s figure it out. I want you to be thinkers.”

AC Yeah. I— I’m still really sympathetic with that um I think you need, you know, especially grad school, it’s just a two-year program, and, you know, they’re grownups, they’re people who chose to come back to school so there’s a strange— like when I’m meeting with potential students or prospective students and, you know, they have this idea of this place where they wanna be after grad school [right]. So they’re trying to find either the right grad school to get them from where they are now to this vision of the future or whether grad school at all is the right sort of medium to get them from here to there. Uh but the problem is that grad school’s job is to like mix you up, in that, you know, couple years between where you are and where you wanna be and, in fact, even within the first, you know, two months, where you thought you wanted to be like probably won’t look very interesting anymore [sure]. And also— you’re gonna— grad school’s other job is to show you all these other potential futures that you didn’t even know existed, many of which, as you know, don’t even yet exist.

[4:16]

PF What are some of the things they do in this remarkable journey?

AC You know, we have a— a real mix between very purposeful, very social projects and very fanciful and projects around— we actually have a course called Design Delight.

PF Ok.

AC Um you know a couple projects that stick out, Smruti Adya’s one of the projects she did— she was doing a project around prosthetics [mm hmm] uh and limb loss and limb difference and um a lot of these theses they can really turn on one sentence, like one of their subject matter experts or one of their, you know, user interviews will say something that will change everything. And so she was interviewing um a woman who had lost her leg and she said, “You know, late at night um when I have to go to the bathroom, uh sometimes I crawl to the bathroom. [Oof] Because it’s just— yeah. Because it’s just so onerous um—”

PF “I don’t wanna put my legs on—” Yeah sure.

AC And you know, that’s, you know, it really made an impact on Smruti and I think in like one or two days she just banged out this device, it’s actually— it’s on the website, called Swift and it’s essentially just a white tube that can expand a little bit and you would either print it out at Shapeways— you could, you know, measure and— and order a size or maybe there would be several sizes at— at Amazon and it’s just like this opportunistic limb that you can slip on, not have to crawl to the bathroom and then return to bed. So, those kinds of products are amazing to me because there’s not a— there’s a— it’s like an incredible lots for incredible little [right] um and I just love the idea of the power of design where you could make a small gesture and get an extraordinary impact from it um—

RZ Usually I— I think what’s—

AC And the visuals are very convincing. I mean like you— you should see the work.

RZ I mean oft— oftentimes that— when the design or the design arm of some big company, it’s usually driven by markets, right? [Mm hmm] Like it’s time for us to have little teeny Bluetooth headphones because Apple came out with little teeny ones [yup].

PF Right.

[6:19]

RZ So go do those, right? And that’s not driven by fundamentally a problem. Of course, everyone would like smaller headphones but really [yeah] the catalyst prove to be competition and [trails off as Paul comes in] —

PF Well and, “I’m gonna— I’m gonna put my mark on it.”

RZ You know and, “I’m gonna put my— we gotta—”

AC [Crosstalk] Oh for sure.

RZ “— have ‘em.”

PF Yeah. “Ours will be purple.”

RZ Yeah. Exactly which is— and— [stammers] that sits in such stark contrast to what you just described, right? Which is—

AC It does. I mean, you know, one of common denominators, which I actually don’t talk and think much about but for this moment I will, is beauty. I mean this thing— this thing’s beautiful uh and so there’s a whole spectrum of we could say “purposefulness” um in design, everything from, you know, what industrial designers would call like “skin jobs” like, you know, very styling, take a thing and just, you know, shroud it in something beautiful or really rethinking the problem. Some of the stuff that you do in reframing, let’s say you have a client comes to you and they think that they want something and, you know, that’s good enough to start but likely that’s not what you’re gonna end up doing and the problem finding uh the scoping, the reframing of the whole engagement is gonna be the most important part up front. That’s no less true for any kind of design in my opinion including uh product design, just product design’s really [chuckles] hard.

PF Right.

AC You know: materials; technology; labor practices; supply chain. It’s just endless.

PF We find this all the time. Like nothing that— people walk in the door and are ready to get that contract moving [yeah] and it’s we don’t want them to.

RZ Well, actually, it’s— it’s counterintuitive, right? We actually get ‘em— we wanna slow down for a sec.

AC Yeah, you wanna add some friction which they don’t wanna—

[7:49]

PF No! Cuz especially if they’re ready to go, it feels terrible—

RZ And also we wanna— we also wanna close the business. [Yeah] So it’s a little weird for us too but you also don’t wanna end up— end up down a path where it’s like you’re doing a thing that a) is untenable; or isn’t gonna make a lot of sense down the road.

PF You know what I’ve learned though is that everybody knows, like you just— you don’t wanna blow up that— that moment of fantasy is really important where your idea is absolutely transformational. Because the process whereby you actually start to go, “I’ve had a few of these ideas,” and then you start to sort of see them get poked at by reality as you walk around with them and then you figure out what you’re really in the business for, why are you doing this? You know? What change could you affect? Because kind of any— especially with technology, any technology idea you come up with: a smarter watch; a better hat. It’s doesn’t matter. Is going to be utterly world transformational and worth a trillion dollars.

AC It’s everything is— and everything is a platform.

PF That’s right.

AC Even if it’s not like unless you look at it at the platform level, you’re not looking at it. The systems mapping, I think, is the most valuable thing that the students do. Infinity mapping; system mapping [how do they— what’s]; user journey mapping—

PF What do those look like? Just—

AC The most basic one, and probably the funnest one is a mindmap where you’ll put let’s say the topic in the middle of a piece of paper and you’ll draw a circle around it; and then you’ll have these lines that radiate out like spokes on a wheel; and they’ll radiate out to other circles, the things that are related. So maybe— like my background is in medical design, so it might radiate out to— well, what we’re talking about, industrial design, let’s say ergonomics. And then it could radiate out to regulatory, and then it could radiate out to money. Uh and very close to that is gonna be insurance and then payers and payees will be around insurance bubble and then you start making smaller bicycle spoke wheels around each of the wheels, and all of a sudden you have this map on the wall. And then it’s a pretty quick trip to do what we would call a systems map after that which is—

RZ [Crosstalk] Well, ok—

AC— where you would start to organize this a little bit, it’s not just a big like blah on the wall. And when you show that to a client or to really anybody, it is likely the first time they’ve ever seen what they do, and it is often just, you know, they’re jaw drops. Because nobody ever showed them a picture—

[10:00]

RZ [Crosstalk] They finally zoomed out [yeah] and took a bird’s eye view.

PF Well, your own— your own process is a mystery, right? Like who knows your own process?

AC Absolutely. Same with students like they’re the worst— they’re the worst at seeing what they do or just a little edit that will turn something from good to like, you know, great [sure]. I mean you find with— with your clients, right? That you have to do that in the beginning or you’re— you know, you’re digging a hole that you’re gonna be in, sometimes when I say to my student’s, you know, when they’re like, “How should we write our thesis books?” I’m like, “Well, you know, imagine reading them.” [Laughs] [Right, right] Write them— write them as if you would actually have to read them and they’re like, “Oh. Ok.”

PF So students come in, they wanna make things, they wanna do things, design things, what are they— what are they like when they come out after two years?

AC You know there’s certainly converse— I wanna say that they’re multilingual [ok]. That’s— that’s ambitious but there’s certainly converse and they understand how, you know, VCs talk and what they worry about; they’re gonna understand how to pitch to foundations; they’re gonna understand UX, UI, lots of principles around graphic design and typography hierarchy. Just like all of it. It’s— it’s ambitious. The thing that we do is we have a lot of short courses instead of [huh] — we almost— we have almost no 15 week courses left. I believe that people can learn things faster than most people think that they can [mm hmm]. Also, graduate students worry, like they’re old enough to know, I— I’ve written about this, they’re old enough to know that they’re uh decisions have consequences so they don’t wanna negative consequences so they don’t wanna decide anything. So they read another book. And so when you have a project that is, you know, 15 weeks long, you know, they’ll start and then by week three or four like it’ll get hard. [Sure] You know, cuz like anything worth working on gets hard. And then they’re like, “Well, maybe I should try this other idea?” So then they go to their other idea and then three or four weeks later, that gets hard too cuz anything [snickers] worth on gets hard. And they’re like, “Well, you know, now I’m getting worried. Lemme go back to my first idea,” and then it’s just like this desperate rush to the finish [right]. I’m sure it’s the same— same in business, right? With a seven week course, you begin and then you middle and then you end, you’re ending after like class two or three um and you have to commit to idea— to an idea and just never, never give up. Like [mm hmm] no changing your idea. Of course it will change and evolve but no like starting like, “Oh well now I’m gonna do something around optics.” So we design out those weeks of anxiety where students will typically have like an [snickers] existential crisis but the best part is if we make a course from 15 weeks to seven weeks, we have a new seven weeks now that we can create a new course around [mm hmm] um and because we’re in New York and because a lot of the classes are in the evening, you know, I can get people to say yes to teaching who could normally never say yes to teaching like 15, you know, afternoons. But you know like Paola Antonelli can give us, you know, five evenings a year, right? Um—

[12:45]

PF That’s right. She’s the Exec Director of MoMA, right?

AC She’s at MoMA, yeah.

PF Yeah.

AC Uh she’s actually on sabbatical this year but and also like she can kill it in five weeks, you know?

PF Sure! Where do they go when they graduate?

AC I thought that it was gonna be just entrepreneurship city [mm hmm]. You know? It was so in the air, like I always conceived of it as a leadership program but I did have an idea that there would be more businesses launched out of it [mm hmm] and I think that I was a little naive— I’m Canadian. Still Canadian. I’ve been here for 30— 32 years.

PF [Laughs] It’s never gonna leave you.

AC Ugh. I wanted to vote. I mean, you know, it was the—

PF Yeah.

RZ Oh you’re still a Canadian citizen.

AC Yeah, I am.

RZ But residing here, in the US.

AC Yeah, so I underestimated just the— the financial burden of this thing. I mean—

RZ I was about to make a joke—

AC— you know, grad school is so expensive.

RZ— you just left ‘em with a debt [laughs].

PF Yeah.

AC Yeah, I know and they worry about that.

[13:31]

PF “You owe me 80,000 dollars and start a company— go start a company.” Yeah.

RZ “Good luck with your startup.”

AC And, you know, add— add to that the cost of living and eating and they’re not earning money, right? Like they don’t have jobs [sure] while they’re in school. So it’s a— the opportunity cost is immense, in any event— So they get the jobs at IDEO and Frog and SYP and Johnson & Johnson, like lots of really great companies. And then medium and small sized consultancies as well, and it’s really only in the last couple of years that the students are— are leaving those, you know, probably their second jobs—

PF Right.

AC— and starting out on their own. The other thing that I knew but I— I hadn’t internalized is that like nobody stays anywhere more than 18 months. So I can— I can calm some students when they’re so worried about like, you know, picking the right first job kind of thing and I’m like, “You know, don’t worry about it so much.”

PF “You’re gonna leave.”

AC “You’re— you’re gonna leave anyway.”

PF “In a year and six months.”

AC And this used to be more of like an advertising agency model [mm hmm], you know, you’d raise your salary by leaving every 16 or 18 months or whatever the convention but, you know, creative people are really restless. Um [yeah] and they want new challenges and, you know, school in a way makes that worse because it spoils them with all these fascinating things to do like every day of the week, every week of the two years, and then they get somewhere and, you know [well and also you’ve just given them—] it’s not inventions time every day.

PF You’ve given them the leaders of thinking in New York City around the field as their teachers, advisors, and friends.

AC Yeah.

RZ WHo— whose doing great work right now?

[14:56]

AC Well, actually, I mean back to one of my students, Souvik Paul, he’s actually turning his thesis into a commercial product, it’s called Cathbuddy. It was called Clean Cath. Two weeks before he came to the grad program, a friend of his was in a car accident and became paralyzed, so sort of back on paralysis. And he knew that for his thesis he wanted to— to do work around, you know, life in a wheelchair, but one of the things that he discovered is that there is a budget for how many disposable catheters you get a month if you are, you know, cathing and that it’s usually not enough, what insurance will pay for, and that people are sterilizing their own disposable catheters and reusing them. This is just like pretty specific design challenge. And they’re using like, you know, Clorox and microwaves and I mean it’s just [Paul sighs] — it’s a disaster out there [yeah], right? And so the risk for infection—

RZ Wow.

AC Yeah. It’s like — it’s a— it’s a big deal. So he came up with this device that would use a UV sterilization and you would put your used catheters into this device and it would sterilize them and then you could use them again. And he had really kept this dream alive since he’s graduated and worked so it’s gonna—

PF That’s great.

AC— it’s gonna be a real product. So like—

RZ It’s not out yet.

AC It’s not out but it’s like you think like that’s really like almost arcane. Right? It’s like a really, really specific but the numbers of people who use, you know, these products is extraordinary, so the scale of something like that could have really great impact.

RZ Also there’s no segmentation here. This isn’t a urban problem or an American problem—

AC Yeah, I know.

PF Yeah, you’re—

AC I think it’s a not talked about problem which makes it actually extra fascinating.

PF Your persona work is pretty simple on this one.

RZ Straightforward and it’s global in scale, I mean.

[16:39]

PF The other thing uh that I love is you and I love to talk about how we like really, you know, difficult, disgusting, horrible problems. And that’s a—

RZ Are you looking at me right now, Paul? [Laughter]

PF You and me. Yes.

RZ Yes, yes.

PF Yeah, we love to— we love to brag about it and that’s an actual like—

RZ That’s an actual horrible problem.

PF Cath— catheters that have to be clean where you can’t get the insurance money. So you had an agency.

AC Yeah. It’s— it was that but it was, you know, sister to uh a design like publication platform. So this is ‘95. I had graduated in ‘86 and ‘87 from Pratt with an industrial design degree and I was— I did my thesis on stick proof hypodermic needles. So hypodermic needles where you couldn’t get an accidental needle stick.

PF Gotcha.

AC Uh HIV/AIDS was like new and everyone, you know, all the healthcare industry was like freaking out. The world needed a device like this. I mean now it’s like mandated by law but in those days it didn’t exist and no one could spend anymore money on any kind of—

RZ State the problem, again.

AC Um, you’re taking blood or [huh] you’re giving a shot [yeah] um and you remove the needle from the arm and you turn and accidentally um, you know, stick somebody [mm hmm] or you’re sheathing um the needle with the needle cap, the plastic cap, and you miss it and you jab your thumb.

RZ Yourself.

AC Um I worked for a year and a half in that area, ultimately it expanded to um a phlebotomy which is a fancy word for laboratory blood collection. So looking at the whole, well, user journey of blood from when it leaves the arm to when you’re gonna get, you know, a result. So things like, you know, when you put blood in a test tube— we’re getting very detailed now, right? Um that blood builds up pressure and so when you open up the rubber test tube top it can aspirate into your face, um and you can contract HIV/AIDS through your eyes that way. Um this is getting lovelier and lovelier, right? Um so I graduated and I knew I wanted to go into medical design. I always had like a big problem with solid waste. I knew I wanted to design things but I couldn’t stand the idea of mass production in just garbage. So I went into medical design. The joke’s on me, of course, cuz, you know, medical design creates more plastic than anything [crosstalk and laughter] and it’s like incinerated so it’s like extra bad, right?

[18:51]

PF It’s not like a styrofoam wrapper for a hamburger. That’s like [Rich laughs].

AC Oh I mean the mechanics in some of these devices like surgical staplers, I mean and it’s all just thrown out after a single use. I got to continue my interest in HIV/AIDS, I worked in secret on a project for Johnson & Johnson, it was the first home— uh home HIV test kit.

PF Sure.

AC But they weren’t ready to put their name on it and so like we couldn’t tell anybody we were working on it. Mackenzie was involved; the FDA; [wow] C. Everett Koop, if you remember this very beloved [yeah] Surgeon General [yeah]. Uh you know so I’m like behind the one way mirror like testing the design of this— of this kit that you would essentially prick your finger and then it provided a dry blood sample and then it— it sent in the mail but we knew that we were, you know, we— even in those days, we didn’t call it like, you know, user segmentation but we knew that we were really looking at sexually active teenagers; we knew that we were looking at, you know, in all candor, like cheating spouses [sure]; we knew that we were looking at groups that are high risk for HIV; and that this thing was gonna be done secretly and in some like with a lot of anxiety [mm hmm]. And so pricking your finger—

RZ Lock the bathroom.

AC So lock the bathroom. So thank you. That’s the first place is where is this is gonna happen? It’s gonna happen in the bathroom. So in the bathroom, not a lot of horizontal surfaces. Right? So we actually had to create—

PF Ahhh.

AC— a surface, this kit actually unfolded into a surface because we knew that it was gonna be in some sense laying in the sink.

PF It’s not a desk.

RZ You’re on toilet.

[20:15]

PF You’re not in a lab. Yeah.

AC Well it’s before phones, so— you’re not in the toilet that long. Yeah. Um well and then it gets— so you have to get rid of the evidence, so the kit has to somehow go away.

PF Yeah.

RZ Alright. So wait, I’m trying to visualize it, so you’re in the bathroom, maybe you got on the floor, maybe you sat on the toilet. You open this kit up, it kinda creates almost like a— I guess a tray.

AC Kind of a flat surface. Yeah.

RZ A flat surface. Ok. Next.

AC The big battle was the pre-test counselling.

PF Ok.

AC Because there had never been— there’s no precedent for a home diagnostic kit, like a pregnancy kit for instance, of a fatal disease [right]. Right? Um also the false-positive and false-negative was really, really important here because—

RZ Stakes are high.

AC— even if you were negative, you had to be re-tested in three more months [right]. Right? And it had to be private. So the idea— we came up with this like barcoding system where you would pull out this ticket and we shaped it in the size of a credit card so it was a very familiar shape. And you could put it in your wallet and hide it.

PF Right.

AC But if you were in a situation where you weren’t hiding this kit, where you were with a partner, and you were both doing it, let’s say, then that number would be on there. Ultimately there was a 1-800 number and the way that it shaked out was that if it was negative, you would get a kind of recording and if it was positive, you would get a live person [mm hmm]. So this was really hard to do and there were two different land sets in the package cuz sometimes you miss on the first one cuz it really hurts [sure]. So even if you miss and you don’t get enough blood, you have to do it again. And you’re really scared to do it again. Like I’d come home with these like sore fingertips for weeks [right] um—

[21:48]

PF Oh cuz you have to test this thing, constantly.

AC The full user journey, right? So now what happens? You haven’t— it hasn’t worked. You take it back to the drugstore and you want a refund? This is supposed to be anonymous. Right? There’s no name attached to this. You’re not registering to do this. So— so thinking through these just unbelievably complex—

RZ Sure.

AC— thorny user experience design issues.

RZ Also, there’s— there’s blood on stuff.

AC The whole thing is just— [yeah]. You know back to the pre-test counselling— or the no pre-test counselling because C. Everett Koop was so beloved in those days, I think a deal was made probably bar— uh you know, brokered by Mackenzie and FDA that if C. Everett Koop wrote the— the manual then that, in some sense, would count as pre-test counselling. I mean it really came down—

RZ That’s ridiculous.

PF Woah!

AC — It really came down to, like, “Listen: people should go to a clinic. They should go their doctor.” [Right] And then on the other side it’s just like, “People don’t go to the clinic, they don’t have a doctor, people are dying. Do you want this kit with a booklet? And no pre-test counselling in person? Or we’re gon— or nothing?” And so it became this really— it was an extraordinary—

RZ It was a lot at play.

AC— moment in time. Yeah.

RZ Yeah.

AC So as— and every one of these was just such an unbelievable design decision. It comes on the market, it’s ripped off in one day. [Someone whistles in disbelief/amazement] Right? The knockoff like same forward factor; similar graphic identity; basically the same layout. I think it was on the market— J&J was on the market for I think a year or two only, you know they really need a homerun with J&J like just the scale—

PF It’s a giant company. Yeah.

AC Yeah, so they, you know, have to sell a lot of anything and they’ll— they’ll sink, you know, huge sums of money into R&D for a product and if it doesn’t go, it doesn’t go. Um—

[23:26]

PF This is not something you can market like Q-Tips.

AC No and all of— I mean imagine those meetings.

PF Yeah.

AC Right?

PF Well that’s just giant company, too [yeah]. Like what are you gonna do? You got Mackenzie and the FDA in there. It’s a tornado. [Yeah, yeah]. And little Allan just trying to do his job [laughs].

AC Yeah, you know, I was just— anyways, so um I started teaching in 1995 and that’s where I met Eric Ludlum and Stu Constantine who were the founders of Core77 and Pratt was smart enough— for their thesis they wanted to make a website. So this was like two years into the World Wide Web and um and that was the year that I started teaching and Pratt was smart enough to hire them to design their first pratt.edu website and gave them um a room and a T1 line which you will appreciate.

RZ Woo!

PF Yeah.

AC Yeah, right?

PF Wooooo!

AC Um and essentially like incubated them when that word wasn’t a word yet [sure] and so in those days I would teach like a full day which was amazing. Like three hours in the morning; three hours in the afternoon; like sophomore id studio. You could show a film; you could have a discussion; do critiques. It was amazing.

PF Oh so it was a good thing?

AC It was a good thing.

PF That much teaching?

AC Yeah but I had a lunch hour and I—

PF I’m tired just—

[24:26]

AC — well yeah, now it’s like unimaginable [laughter] but I’d go there— I’d go there at lunch time and uh to the Core77 office and I would like learn HTML.

PF Sure.

RZ For those that don’t know what is Core77? Let’s—

AC Uh so Core77 was actually the first design website online. It specialized in industrial design. So it had a very tight like per-view. And Stu and Eric talk about it that they created the site that they wish they had when they were looking for grad schools.

PF Sure.

AC Um and it had all of these sections, it had a resource section. Um like you remember what things were like in 1995, right? It was like web 1.0. Um—

PF There wasn’t that much web!

AC No, no, I mean and it was— you know these were static pages. I actually had a column called Contraptions. Stu and Eric tease that I— they say that I was first design blogger which actually might be true cuz I— I would pick like a funny object and write like some pithy paragraph about it and do like five of them a month kind of thing.

PF I’m just worried Jeffrey Zeldman will burst through this door.

AC I know. Yeah [laughs].

RZ He’s coming for us from three blocks away.

AC Yeah I don’t know [Paul laughs] if there were web standards either. So I— I got to know these guys and um— and then there was a project that uh I was consulting with Ayse Birsel for Herman Miller. It was this brand new— you might remember a system called Resolve, it was based on 120 degree angles instead of 90 degree angles.

PF Oh that’s right! It was the future of the cubicle!

[25:40]

AC Yeah it was— it was phenomenal.

RZ Oh!

PF Yeah.

AC And then the first Dot Com bust happened, you know, eight months later. Like Herman Miller couldn’t build enough factories to make enough of this stuff and just— it was just unbelievable [Paul crosstalks]. No, in the contract furniture industry, that’s the first to go.

PF Oh ok. Oh, that’s interesting.

AC That was heartbreaking. Anyways, so I started doing some consulting with Stu and Eric at Core77 and uh we did this project for this Resolve system and it actually won a lot of awards like, you know, The Gold Pencil and the Silver Cube, I actually like have those engraved [mm hmm] and all of a sudden, Herman Miller starts calling and said, “Well, can you do that for our system?” [Sure!] And then we started to do all like the physical computing in our—

PF Ah that’s for young designers, what’s a better than a call from Herman Miller?

AC Well, yeah and [26:19?] was around and, you know, we worked with a lot of amazing artists. From ITP and—

PF That’s really close to like the core, right?

AC And they’re design-driven, right?

PF Yeah.

AC So, yeah we couldn’t ask for much. Anyway so I ended up like running a lot of this stuff in between like, you know, managing editing, um—

PF I see you’re always teaching.

AC Yeah, it’s a long time.  Yeah.

PF Yeah.

AC It’s probably 23 or 24— 24 years. And then um so that design publishing went on a long time and Core grew, the web grew, like everything exploded.

[26:49]

PF Are you connected day to day? Are you kind of advisory now?

AC You know I’m on— I’m on partner meetings [ok] um you know most of my life is at SVA right now.

PF Right.

AC But yeah, no, it’s um—

PF It’s still very much part of your life.

AC It’s, you know, there’s not a lot of things that have lasted that long.

PF No.

AC Uh that are really about, you know, making design connections and helping people find either fascinating things to care about or fascinating opportunities, you know, job opportunities or finding talent.

RZ So, Allan, design— it feels like somebody made two or three billion stickers that say “design” on them [yeah] and gave them out to everybody [yup], designers and non-designers, [yeah] and now there’s— there are design stickers on everything.

PF Well there’s design stickers on giant consulting firms around technology, around— just everybody’s a designer.

RZ The way a term’s like, you know, “customer journey” get tossed around. I mean it’s a strange— I’ve watched this not as a designer but more as a spectator—

AC Mm hmm.

RZ— and seen I think it’s the last ten years, more like five I feel like it really started to heat up.

PF Well, do we— let’s— let’s actually— you’re saying, let’s ask Allan: do you feel that design has been commoditized in the last ten years? In a way that it wasn’t before?

RZ Or describe this, like I— it’s just exploded and one I— I mean you can put on one hat and say, “Isn’t this great? Finally we’ve arrived.” And then there’s the other hat which is, “God we’re being— I mean it’s just— it’s been diluted into shit.” Uh give me your perspective on where we’re at today.

[28:28]

AC I think the first thing to notice— like so I’m not cynical about this, like the first thing to notice is that design has moved from something that is seen as aesthetic and coming at the end to something that is truly strategic, you know? And coming at the beginning. Adn like you understand that better than anybody. Right? You know? Again, you’ll make something beautiful but in a— in a Bucky Fuller kind of way if it’s the right solution, it will be beautiful. You don’t have to make it beautiful. So I think that there’s a new appreciation that—

PF If you like domes.

AC If you like domes.

PF If you love a dome.

AC Yeah.

PF Yeah, ok.

AC And then the other thing that, you know, people love to make fun of is design thinking which, you know, um even Tim Brown would like argue is just it’s pretty common sense. Right? Like work with your user; uh listen; prototype early; and then do it again. You know and iterate. And like don’t be an idiot. Basically. Like those [Rich laughs] are it. That’s design theory.

PF That’s the man who runs IDEO.

AC Yeah.

PF Yeah, that’s Tim Brown. Ok.

RZ Um design thinking is a wonderful thing.

PF Well [sighs] —

AC Well but people— but people make fun of it. And I think that a lot of people who make fun it— I mean first of all: the word, I talked about this in that no meeting article [https://productsofdesign.sva.edu/blog/nomeeting], the word thinking is in design thinking and everybody knows that design isn’t about thinking, it’s about making stuff. It’s about doing.

PF Right.

AC Um so right away it’s tricky um and then the idea is that if you thought about something hard enough then you— you would solve it, and that’s like ridiculous. I also think that people who criticize design thinking have actually never been in a design thinking workshop. Like I’ve run one uh with a bunch of um doctors and some managers and med students at Jefferson University just a couple months ago, and it’s like they see God. Like they can’t believe, they come up to you after and they’re like, “I can’t believe . . . I didn’t know about any of this. I can’t believe the notion of iteration. I didn’t even know that word, for instance. I didn’t know that we could make a low resolution like, you know, prototype of a webpage on a three— you know on a mobile app on three Post It notes and actually see something that we’ve been sitting in meetings just talking about and doing nothing about.” It’s like a revelation to them.

RZ Mm.

[30:24]

AC So I think that people would be less willing to criticize—

PF Well that’s the conversation where design thinking is brutal in the marketing message.

AC Well and that’s the thing is journalists like to talk about the over promise of design thinking [right] and of course that’s bad. And again the over promising is— is part of the problem, the— the— the journalism of the over promising part is— that’s a fun article to write. You know? So.

PF Well there was also a moment where everything kind of caught fire and went too far. It’s like TED was a good example like [mm hmm] 90 percent of the TED content is typical magazine style content. It’s pretty packaged up and then 10 percent is a little woo woo [mm hmm]. And fine, ok. Like that’s— that’s how America works and how we consume content but there was so much of it at one point that everybody was like, “I’m gonna make fun of this now.”

AC Yeah, yeah, no, and I mean I think everything comes up for parody at a certain point [that’s right]. You know I liked it before it was cool kind of thing.

PF Yeah. Yeah, yeah.

AC Um so I see the more people talking or thinking about design as an actual process and not as a thing, as an artifact, like the better. That is—

RZ It’s really value.

AC Especially in a world where, you know, cynically, you know, it’s all about extracting value. Like the design process adds value.

PF Right.

AC Um and the earlier the better. Um I know Postlight’s like super design driven and you have a place, you know, you understand that everything, you know, starts and ends with design.

[31:45]

PF Thank you, you’ve saved us 30 seconds of marketing [Rich laughs].

AC Yeah. Ah it’s really, really true.

RZ If you don’t mind [Paul laughing, Allan crosstalks] we’re gonna use that clip—

AC Yeah, for sure.

PF “Allan Chochinov says,” [Rich laughs] um you know a tricky thing too is the process can be really goofy, and that it’s hard to like it’s hard to commoditize like goofy thinking—

AC Uh and— and risky, I mean if you’re a designer, you have to be comfortable with ambiguity [yeah] and business is not comfortable with ambiguity. Like they— they’re in the risk reduction business, right? A lawyer is too. Regulatory too. Policy too. So—

PF One of the ways that I think we’re able to get stuff—

AC— it’s antithetical to a lot of people’s like you know—

RZ Sure. It’s scary.

AC— way of life.

RZ It’s a scary process.

AC It’s really scary, yeah.

PF One of the ways we get things across the line is just it’s so hard to ship software that people accept— there’s a point about halfway through on a lot of projects where we’re like, “You know, I know when you walked in and you said this and this and we said we didn’t know, we weren’t a 100 percent sure. It actually turns out that instead of A and B, C’s gonna be the better path.” They’re so anxious about not shipping that they’re able to sort of like process and listen and react to that because they’ve had experiences where things haven’t gone out the door because people have tried to do everything for them.

RZ Also transparency is key there [yeah] like you can’t show up and say, “Listen: um it’s gonna be path C.” They— they have to have seen how we got there and involved—

PF Rich has a wonderful maxim which is nothing’s bad news uh 60 days ahead.

[33:10]

AC Oh I love that. Mine is everything’s shitty until it’s better. You know?

PF Right.

AC Everything’s worse until it’s better.

PF And if you just keep telling the story and they know that like, you know, path C is probably gonna be our option but it’s two months before delivery date, everyone is gonna calm down.

AC Well do you think that— that scale like that number 60 changes depending on how, in some sense, in love they are with their own idea before they managed to get to you, to find you?

PF [Exhales] We— we—

AC Like how dug in they are to like, “We know that this is—”

PF We destroy the love at outset of engagement.

RZ Well, it’s— it’s— we have very much— we don’t report back, we’re more like, “Come on in. Come sit. [Yeah] At the table.” And you know that virtual table is Slack today. We don’t do the weekly report. We’re like, “Here’s what’s going on. Come on in.” Sometimes they don’t do it. They don’t come in. And then they just show up and they say, “Hey, what’s going on?” And—

PF Actually not— not of the current class. Like we’ve got most of that out of the business.

RZ Yup. It’s— it’s very—

PF It’s too risky.

RZ— collaborative. And because we want them to, first off: we want to have them in the room as we talk through the problem because a lot of times they’re the domain experts, not us. We’re just—

AC Oh yeah.

RZ We’re still trying to learn their world.

AC Well I think appreciation for local knowledge is a nice tenet of design thinking.

RZ Absolutely. Absolutely.

AC It’s like not everybody— the client isn’t an idiot all the time.

RZ Exactly.

AC Kind of thing. Um. Yeah.

[34:27]

PF We are done with that. Like that— when we started this firm, my instinct was the clients were gonna show up and they were gonna show up and they were gonna be smarter than they used to be. The consumer of a platform company services is often a— a product leader on the other side and they— or they are experienced or they— also the— the resources for learning for what apps and what platforms and APIs are are— are so much better than they used to be [mm hmm]. So they come in pretty educated.

AC Well and they also have consumer experiences on their devices [that’s right] that are like, “How come our work doesn’t work like this?” [That’s right] Like, “How come I don’t have a dashboard for this for my business but I do for my jogging?”

PF Yeah, that’s right.

AC “You know my running.” So, maybe half the battle is done for you. Maybe not half but at least they understand power of design, they may not understand the actual, you know, plumbing of it.

RZ I think it has to do with— and I think you’ll see this even right up to big consulting, I mean the message now is, “We’re gonna worry about these problems with you. We’re gonna work through this. Design is part of the whole story. Here. Rather than it’s a bolt on.” And— and we say that, and so when people come to us, they kind of have an idea of how it’s gonna go, that we’re not a just raw engineering shop that is gonna take a blueprint and just produce the thing.

AC I just wonder— you know one of my favorite quotes is Petrula Vrontikis, she’s a— a designer and a teacher in California, she says, “I work with my ears.” And so I wonder sometimes like well what kind of clients come in here where you’re mostly listening and what kind of clients are coming in here where you have to just help them understand like who are; what you believe; the process; the kind of team that you have.

RZ Usually when they come here, there is so much bottled up. We go into pure listening mode. We just— we don’t even wanna actually have a dialogue much. We just sort of let them go.

AC Put it out like let us see the reality of what you’re worried about, basically.

[36:20]

RZ Exactly.

PF Around about minute 50 of a meeting—

AC Yeah.

PF I— I think like, “Oh, you know, we should tell them what we do.” Seriously like that’s—

RZ We gotta let ‘em go and do the thing and then little by little we start to get into the— the conversation. You’re gonna know pretty quickly um whether this person is going to relinquish a lot of that control to allow us to do our thing or if it’s— if it’s going to be too tight and it’s gonna not allow this to be a success. And we can see it. Usually in that first or second meeting you can tell.

AC Yeah, I’m sure you have really good instincts as well. Well lemme ask you the magic wand question like if you had a magic wand, what would you want that person to ask you or to know about you in those initial meetings where they’re trying to understand like, “Do I need design?” Like, “What is design capacity gonna do for me?” And I mean sort of where we started about choosing, you know, whether to go to school at all or with school and if your organization is the right fit for them. What would they ask you? Or what would they tell you that you couldn’t sort of sort of interrupt them at minute ten, say, “Listen, can you—”

PF No, I mean—

AC This would be helpful.

PF For me, and Rich you might have a different point of view, but for me it’s just it’s very much— it takes a long time to get to the user. People have their— they have their peers and their business—

AC They have the wrong user usually.

PF Yeah and they’ve got the CEO and they’ve got so many anxieties. They have either money they have to spend or money they have to go ask for and—

RZ Promises they’ve walked around for bigger companies.

PF And who are we? Who the hell are we?

AC Oh right, of course, like you’re not necessarily the only people they’re talking to.

PF No and so they’re— they’re trying to figure us out. And so it often takes I think really three or four conversations until you can finally relax everybody and they can say, “Yeah, no, I know exactly who the user is here.” Right? But they cannot relax into that on that first meeting. It’s actually very closely held information.

[38:13]

RZ It’s often ambiguous. We had a client, the message was: there’s a big event coming in 90 days. And we wanna do a thing so that there’s— we make a good impact at the event.

AC Right.

RZ Like ideas came out like you know you pop the confetti thing? [Laughs]

AC Exhibition design; branding; the whole brand environment.

RZ They didn’t know. They had ideas. They had sketched stuff out. And they had what was actually great was they had this timeframe which we were able to use as sort of a forcing function [yeah, that’s true] to say, “Alright, listen: some of these are great and 3D is awesome.”

AC [Chuckling] “But 90 days is 90 days.”

RZ [Laughing] “But we’re 90 days away.” Right?

AC And you’re budget’s your budget.

RZ Exactly. That steering process and then eventually you have to give us the keys, right? We’re like, “Ok, we gotta run fast here.” I mean that is the reality.

PF You’re gonna set up the server, you’re gonna put it on Rails at that point.

RZ Yeah, yeah. And— and—

AC And you might not get to test it so much.

PF No, that’s right. That’s right like—

AC Cuz an event like doesn’t slip. That’s— that’s the scary part of that.

RZ It doesn’t slip.

AC It’s just like, “Well, if we wait three more, you know, weeks, it’ll be, it’ll be [exactly] —”

[39:15]

PF No, it won’t get better and we won’t fail. Like we won’t let you fail. And so we actually have to build that relationship. The good news is that the people who are right over your shoulder watching every little bit, they tend to be super cheap. Like they don’t wanna pay. They wanna watch you and they wanna tell you how to do it and they’re gonna— they’re gonna watch every minute and so by the time we get even— even to back of envelope, they’re gone.

AC They’ll know. You know that chart? It’s like, you know, design fees? You know whatever it is like 500 dollars, you know, if I do it [yeah], 750 if you watch me do it.

PF Yeah [laughs].

AC You know? 1100, you know, if you’re in the room, you know.

PF That’s right.

AC Um and it just gets more expensive the more um [laughter] — there’s a bunch of these things on Instagram. They’re pretty great. I’m gonna find one and send it to you.

RZ It’s also— I mean we think about the designers, it’s pretty demoralizing if you’re just— if somebody took your hand while it’s on the pencil [yeah] and are just constantly in there. It’s very—

PF It’s not good.

RZ It’s not good.

PF Alright, Allan, what do people do to get in touch with you?

AC I’m not much on Twitter. I mean I’ll be on it cuz I feel like I have to be on it. I like Instagram for hobbies. So that’s a good place to find me. Um, you know, you go down to chochinov.com but uh probably SVA is gonna be the— you know where you’re gonna see the most exciting stuff. So.

PF Where? What is the name of the program?

AC It’s uh Products of Design, it’s plural. Productsofdesign.sva.edu.

PF Alright.

AC Oh and I have this whole essay on changing the word “meeting” to the word “review”. Uh the argument is that if you use the word— if you had a review at three o’clock this afternoon, you know, you’d look like an idiot showing up empty handed to something called a review. But if you had a meeting at three o’clock like whatever, no need to prepare. So um this idea came up um in a— in a staff meeting from Alisha Wessler, our Director of Operations, and, you know, it was like, “Can we— can we reimagine the word ‘meeting’? Can we actually just change it in the department?” And she said, “Well what about the word ‘review’?” I was like, “That’s it!” So I went back to my computer and I downloaded an autocorrect Chrome Extension and I made it correct one word, whenever I typed the word “meeting”, it would change it to the word “review”. And then I went into my iOS and did the same thing. Um and so I spent seven months not being able to type the word “meeting”.

[41:22]

RZ How’d that go?

AC It was awesome. Because you type “meeting” and then it changes it into “review” and you’re like, “Oh no, actually, we should probably ask people to like do something before we take their time and get together.”

RZ Huh. I’m applying this test right now, so it’s like—

AC Yeah.

PF No, it’s not— it’s not— don’t just bring your ideas. Bring a plan.

AC Anything— any kind of prototype.

PF Yeah.

AC Um and so one of our faculty, Bill Cromie, actually built a custom extension called No Meeting. Uh so you don’t have to like type in anything—

RZ [Crosstalk] God bless web extensions—

AC No, and get this: he came up with this idea to make a Slack bot, which he did. Which you can find at this— at this article. So when you type it into Slack, if the No Meeting Slack bot is in there, then the Slack bot will pop up and it says, “Hey, I noticed you uh typed the word ‘meeting’, would you like me to change that to the word ‘review’ so that people always come prepared to future gatherings?”

PF Allan!

RZ This was great.

PF Yeah. I could listen to stories about medical devices being designed for the rest of my life.

AC Well, thanks for having me.

RZ Allan, thanks— thanks so much. [Music fades in] This was great.

AC Yeah, this has been a thrill.

RZ A lot of fun.

AC Thank you.

PF Hey, if anybody needs us, hello@postlight.com, that’s the email that you could send to and it would go to me and Rich and we’ll forward it to Allan if you have any questions for him.

AC Ah, totally.

PF Alright, let’s get outta here. Let’s hang out and talk about medical devices [music ramps up, plays alone for four seconds, fades out to end].

Dec 04, 2018
Is Amazon Good for Society? Because It's Taking On New York.
31:35
 

 

 
Photo by Joe Lewandowski on Unsplash

It’s Black Friday Forever in America: This week on Track Changes we ask the question on everyone’s minds: Are we happy that Amazon has come to Queens? On one hand, our own consumer choices have brought this upon us. Amazon is great at eliminating steps (hey there Same-Day Delivery and 1-Click Ordering). But on the other hand, we're now reliant, and can't live without them. Is Amazon is obsessed with scale and expansion? Will New York tolerate not owning an entire sector of the economy? Is any mass-expansion good for society?

 

LINKS

Nov 27, 2018
Screen Time and Me Time : A Conversation On Platform Obsessions
29:32

Everything You Like Is Garbage: You know the creepy feeling of walking into a dark room and finding your kid hunched over the iPad with their eyes glazed over? So do we. On this week’s episode, Paul and Rich talk about addiction and obsession —  words that are used interchangeably but that speak to different experiences. What kind of parenting decisions need to be made when kids are addicted to screens? What are Silicon Valley parents doing for their kids in response to the tech they push into the world? We discuss how kids are adaptable and curious — Rich, for example, grew up in a bookless home on a steady diet of Tom and Jerry cartoons, and he turned out fine! We also let you in on our own obsessions, chocolate, watches and old book collections.

 

Links

 

 

Transcript

Rich Ziade It is something! There is— it’s about two-thirds of the way into eating the chocolate. It’s kind of odd and then—

Paul Ford You can’t chew.

RZ You can’t— no, you won’t get it. You won’t get that buzz.

PF It lives under your mouth. It’s— it’s like— it’s like a drug.

RZ It is and it starts to hit like brain centers.

PF Yeah—

RZ And it gets weird.

PF It’s like Klonopin for rich people.

RZ [Laughing] So melting Klonopin.

PF Yeah [music fades in, plays alone for 18 seconds, ramps down]. We should talk about the things that we’re obsessed about that aren’t technology. Just to frame it a little bit.

RZ Ok.

PF You like chocolate.

RZ I really, really good chocolate.

PF It’s pretty exhausting. I gotta be honest, to— to be your friend but, at the same time, once I finally gave in and was like, “Alright, let em have it.” Cuz your— you’ll come up with what looks like a— like an overpriced candy bar and you’ll be like, “If you chew this I’ll punch you in the face, ok?” And the first few times I’m like, “This is just annoying.” I’m just waiting for something to get squishy. But then the reality is that with some of them you give em a minute—

RZ It’s kind of incredible.

PF And they start telling you a little story.

RZ Yeah.

PF They’re like, “Oh I was once a bean in the mountains [yeah] of Vietnam [yeah] and then someone picked me and then I’m— nothing really too much happened to me after that because I’m a single source [sings] chocolate bar!” [Both laugh] What are some of the brands?

RZ Uh there’s a— a brand called Amadi. By the way—

PF Yeah that’s the one.

[1:39]

RZ— Godiva. Godiva is like—

PF Booo!

RZ— is like—

PF No, that’s the thing: lemme just tell everyone: everything— every chocolate you’ve ever liked, unless you’re in this world, is garbage and you’re an animal for eating it.

RZ Ok. So. Godiva is like the Banana Republic of chocolate.

PF Right.

RZ It’s kind of pitched as higher end [Paul laughs] —

PF It’s khaki pants of chocolate.

RZ [Laughing] But it’s actually if you really go shop at Barney’s [yeah] and the fancier shops, Banana Republic isn’t really higher end. Tell me— tell me one of your obsessions, Paul.

PF [Sighs] I have a lot of nerd obsessions like I, you know—

RZ We all do.

PF Yeah. Non-nerd: I really do like getting on eBay and looking at old books, like— and especially lots of books like— like eBay lots, like thousands of books or—

RZ Like you’ll get three boxes.

PF Yeah, not three! Sometimes 2,000. Sometimes it’s like the whole library is— is the personal library is getting unloaded or the— the used bookstore is going out of business. And I think there’s a lot of intertwining fantasies there which is like I love books. Still do [yeah]. I mostly don’t buy them anymore because they take up a lot of space; I live in an apartment, and— [sighs] —

RZ And you read on your phone.

[2:45]

PF I read on my phone and I have enough stuff.

RZ Yeah, yeah, yeah.

PF But there’s a part of me that just really appreciates books. The— I still have thousands at home and I like to through them, I like to look at them. And I have associations with all the spines and— and sort of what they all mean [yeah sure] and I love old reference books, things like that. So I really like older stuff. There’s— it’s funny because I— I love, you know, there’s a part of me that really feels I should be interested in like rare volumes from the 1600s, like that’s the true bibliophile [hmm] but it’s not. What I like is the old encyclopedia from like 1890 about manners or about etiquette [hmm] or just like random stuff [yeah]. So they’re very soothing, these obsessions.

RZ And I get it. And— and— first off: you make me sound like an eight-year-old. We talked about chocolate for a minute and then—

PF No—

RZ— we got into your wonderful obsession with books.

PF [Chuckles] Not really because uh we— we should share with the YouTube video— or we should share the YouTube video of people eating the Almandi chocolate and sniffing to the sound of Steely Dan. That— they put up—

RZ That’s Joe Cocker. [Paul laughs] It’s bad. It’s not good. It’s not good.

PF And this is not— this is not for kids is what that says.

RZ No. No. This is for sophisticated adults.

PF You need to really enjoy the fine stylings of Joe Cocker.

RZ While you eat chocolate. Are obsessions good?

PF I think that— well it really depends. There’s some really bad obsessions that people can get.

RZ Addiction.

PF There’s addiction and then there’s also like I— I don’t know [sighs] it’s a real— it’s a really tricky one. The Kardashians is a good example. Some people have a really fun, silly relationship with that show and they think it’s [mm hmm] really interesting and they get a kick out of it and it tells them something about their own lives and they really like. Other people are— are just hating themselves cuz they can’t have a 4,000 dollar handbag.

[4:32]

RZ Right they’re not gonna be happy.

PF Yeah.

RZ It’s— it’s an— an unreachable quality of life, status, that just people dream about and obsess over. That’s a bad obsession. That’s a bad obsession.

PF The chocolate is ultimately like a relatively medium-sized indulgence. You know, it’s just—

RZ It’s— it’s also—

PF It’s literally the—

RZ It’s ephemeral. I’m not gonna put it in a shel— on a shelf.

PF No, it’s the cache you have in your— I don’t really want the books when I’m looking at them.

RZ I don’t— I mean I wanna eat the chocolates and that’s that. [Stammers] —

PF I pulled a few triggers. I got— I wanted um old copies of The Whole Earth Review which is kind of an unusual magazine that came out in the eighties. And— nerdy, but I wanted copies of Omni Magazine which was like an early—

RZ I remember Omni.

PF I wanted the originals. I wanted to see the ads. I wanted to remember [yeah] sort of how it felt [yeah]. So I bought those. It cost a couple hundred bucks. So I mean it’s— it’s— there’s— and then they took up— they take up a lot of shelf space though and then I’m like—

RZ It’s the feeling of this thing that I think about a lot, that I possibly can’t have, and when I do have it, I find some joy. I mean you— [I think there’s—]. You’re not well if you’re sitting there rubbing the book for days on end.

PF That’s right.

RZ Like that’s not what it’s a— I— I like watches. It’s another [that’s right]. I don’t know if I’d call it an obsession.

[5:42]

PF I don’t— it’s not an obsession. It seems to be that there’s almost a therapeutic function, right? Where you’re like, “I’m kinda stressed or stuff is going on or I just like— I need something to do for a half hour to settle my brain down.” And that’s when I see you creep over to your RSS feed of watch blogs.

RZ Awristocrat!

PF That might be—

RZ That’s spelled W-R-I-S-T. I don’t wanna collect em. I like having them. I tend to get tired of them—

PF I can vouch for this.

RZ I don’t really want a room like a closet full of watches lined up.

PF Well and also not to get into the numbers but we know some people that have done really, insanely well for themselves. Your collection is very nice and very special and very lovely but it’s not earth shattering.

RZ No. No.

PF You— you have— it’s not museum quality.

RZ Not only that, I don’t want them long term [yeah]. I mean there are a couple that I’ve tied to events in my life that I’ll probably hold onto but the other’s are like, oh— ok. That was fun.

PF Yeah—

RZ That’s the thing.

PF I got my pleasure out of this—

RZ It’s not a material possession thing. Or an asset. Some people are like, “If I hold onto this for 20 years it’ll be worth three times as much.”

PF It really is about the emotional reaction.

RZ Yes.

PF I think once you get into the asset that’s a whole different set of emotions, right?

RZ Yeah.

[6:47]

PF Like for me I have limited— I don’t wanna move— I have limited shelf space [yeah] and so there’s a sort of like, what’s the most meaningful things I could put on that shelf? And then—

RZ Question. Let me ask you a question: is it— do you love the physical object when you talk about your books or are you talking about just purely the content— [Paul sighs] cuz if it’s the content you could probably find it online or wherever.

PF Oh the content’s everywhere. Yeah that’s not my worry.

RZ Is it the physical thing?

PF It’s the physical thing. It’s the space it takes up. Like how am I gonna apportion that space? What’s valuable?

RZ No, no, but your love for it to begin with?

PF I really do love it and the one of the things—

RZ The physical thing.

PF If— if I had more time, I would spend more of that time like with books and a notebook. That would be really satisfying.

RZ Ok.

PF I actually have a process, I really like reading. Occasionally I see something interesting, I would take a picture of it and tweet it [yeah]. Like that would be pure happiness for me [yeah]. I just don’t— especially with having little kids like, you know, they go to bed around 8:30 and I— I just am not gonna sit at a table and read for two hours.

RZ Yes.

PF I’m gonna goof off and watch some TV and answer emails.

RZ Alright so let’s pivot into something that’s kind of, sort of sits as a juxtaposition when people talk about experiences today. Now, even if you weighed into our industry—

PF Well I can— I can bridge this for you. There was just a big Apple event, it was held at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

[8:03]

RZ That’s a beautiful space, by the way.

PF It is. It is.

RZ I live near it.

PF Somebody was worried that— that Apple had bought it.

RZ Dude, there were Apple flags [Paul laughs] all around the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and, by the way, there’s an Apple Store across the street from the Brooklyn Academy of Music [Listen—] that is absolutely striking and it looked like it was over.

PF Yeah.

RZ [Laughs] The dictator had arrived—

PF Like there’s a big floating—

RZ— the flags had been planted.

PF There’s a giant Tim Cook head just sorta hovering.

RZ [Laughs] Yeah and it’s like— yeah. And— and—

PF “Strength through iOS.”

RZ And you better start singing their song. If you don’t start singing their song, they’re gonna put you on the trucks and off you go.

PF I think a third of America would probably pledge to Apple if it said, “We are the new government.”

RZ I think so! So it looked weird, you know why? Because it was— it was nondescript. Apple being Apple there wasn’t a single word about what was happening.

PF Right, so it’s just like, “Our presence is here.”

RZ It was just apples with swirls of colors modify— modifying the logo. That’s the experience and look [stammers] —

[8:59]

PF Well and Apple’s— people have been obsessed with the Apple brand since the seventies.

RZ Yes. Because it tried to humanize something that was— that felt very difficult to touch and to come near.

PF And then, I mean, even before Steve Jobs, there were pictures— people shaving the Apple logo in their heads. And then—

RZ It was a big deal.

PF— as Jobs sort of made it more and more kind of this cult of quality, it got more and more intense, and I think that didn’t exactly scale.

RZ No but—

PF The brand works harder than any other brand.

RZ It really does and— and they’re— I mean you can’t deny the craft that is— that is just—

PF Well this is supreme, I mean I have—

RZ— touching every aspect of the product.

PF It’s almost inconceivable how— what these things are. Like every little piece represents thousands and thousands of person hours [yes] of unbelievable labor going back 40, 50 years. I mean they— they just are kinda— they just encapsulate all human culture [yes] into this tiny little box.

RZ Well, I mean, we’ve really reached a threshold where I think we’re— people are starting to get scared. We talked a few minutes ago about obsession being get. Like your love of books is just a wonderful thing to talk through and talk about. I love watches but I’m not consumed by them. You wouldn’t call it an addiction. And what you’re hearing more and more of lately is the— the words obsession and addiction being used kind of interchangeably.

PF That’s right and we’re very worried about children and phones.

RZ Children and phones [yeah] and there was some articles—

PF And iPads and—

RZ Yeah. There were some articles recently where The New York Times said that in silicon valley, where they conjured up all this shit, they’re obsessed with their kids not using their phones.

PF That’s right. I have an answer: just get your kids Chromebooks [music fades in] because they wanna throw those in the garbage. It’s wonderful.

RZ Hard.

PF Oh I love it.

RZ It’s hard [music plays alone for six seconds, ramps down].

PF Rich, let’s interrupt our marketing podcast [music fades out] to do some marketing.

RZ Despite what all these inventions do to your brain, Postlight’s really good at building them.

PF We are [Rich laughing]. No matter what. No matter how many children’s brains are ruined by small devices [Rich laughs], um we are the device children ruiner— no, we’re not. We make really great software—

RZ We channel a very different set of obsessions around great design, great engineering to build really great apps, really great platforms.

PF We’re ethically concerned, too, we’re not going for addition. We’re not that kinda shop.

RZ No, no.

PF You call us because you have a business model and you want— now we love when people engage and are connected to stuff.

RZ Yes.

PF You know, we want people to really—

RZ No, engagement’s part of success for us, for sure.

PF We love people to use our stuff but we’re not— we’re not trying to figure out how to keep you on that phone for eight hours a day. Uh but we can help people— you know, when they open up a Postlight app, they think, “Wow, this looks, behaves, and operates exactly like the other really good apps that I’m used to.” We are— we’re at a very high level of quality, we take it very seriously. It’s— we’re not the cheapest for that reason but we’re pretty good.

RZ Very reasonable.

[11:59]

PF We are overall when people work with us over time they come back again and again and again. We love that.

RZ Visit postlight.com and you will see a bunch of work [music fades in].

PF That is true. Take a look at our work and send an email to hello@postlight.com [music plays alone for six seconds]. First of all: most of what children like to do with a screen is consume media.

RZ Sure.

PF When we grew up, we had, you know, Commodores and Amigas and Macs and whatever and you had to do computer things with computers because they wouldn’t play videos. Not really. Not until the nineties, and even then it was like little crappy videos [yup]. The current state is, you know, which of a hundred billion hours of video can I watch before somebody realizes that— you know, like when my parents are sleeping in, I wanna— like my kids will just sort of negotiate for computer time and the computer time that they want is Netflix and YouTube.

RZ Understandably.

PF Yup.

RZ I mean it’s kind of magical. You’re holding this thing that’s a pound.

PF It’s not just that though. They— if I remind them or if I say, “No, you can’t have that but you can have,” and then the number two thing that they like to do— and there’s lots of games on there, cuz it’ll play Android games, I will say like, you know, it’s just like Barbie—

RZ Shopping Barbie.

PF Yeah, Shopping Barbie or weird like princess games and so on and [yeah] there’s a profile of my children in Russia that’s probably about 700 pages long at this point [Rich laughs] but the um if I say, “You know what? Take some time on Google Maps and go look around Staten Island,” they love it.

RZ I mean that’s wonderful. It’s exploration.

PF They get to see the whole world. They get to see it.

RZ Sure. Sure.

[13:34]

PF It’s like— like you’d imagine with kids, they wanna see their house [yeah] and then they wanna see their school and then they’re like, “I’ve been there,” and it’ll be relatively close by, it’s Grand Army Plaza [of course]. So they love that and then Google knows everywhere my children are looking and that’s cool.

RZ And they’re in your house. Yeah. [Paul laughs]. So ok so. Let’s bring this into the whole—

PF Well see Netflix—

RZ “Ok. Let’s avoid kid addiction blah blah blah.”

PF I mean let’s look at how the different companies react to this, right? Like Netflix just goes online, “You’re gonna binge watch this garbage and we’re gonna continue to shovel it down your baby bird mouths and you’re gonna give us money every month. You’re gonna forget how much you’re paying and you’re just gonna suck it up through your nose like cocaine.”

RZ Worth noting: there is no setting, in Netflix, to not make another show start when one ends.

PF Oh yeah!

RZ It probably would take an engineer and a QA staff [no] a day to put this switch in.

PF Netflix is the product equivalent of dumping a like a bag of candy hearts on the floor and saying, “Go, pig.” [Rich laughs] You’re— and you’re like, “I don’t even like candy hearts!” [Makes gross chomping sounds].

RZ “But ok!” [Laughs]

PF That’s— that’s my experience of Netflix.

RZ So. Alright. Let me— let me rant for a second here. It is scary I mean a kid— they do have a glazed look in their eyes if you leave em too long holding an iPad or a Chromebook.

PF Oh, you know what’s bad? I got my kids sound cancelling headphones cuz I’ve got twins, right? [Oh god!] And they can’t— and I have this issue where every now and then the light’ll cut out in the room where it’s kind of my office space where they have their computers so I can watch them. So if I’ll like walk away, I tend to be kinda— I try to be close unless I’m asleep when they’re using the machines and they don’t get a lot of time with them but when you walk in and the room is dark and the screen is on their face and they’re wearing headphones, I’m like, “I am breeding monsters.”

RZ Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

[15:24]

PF This is— like it needs to feel public and they need to be connected and near other humans when they’re using this stuff. I don’t— it’s pretty bad when they just lock in.

RZ It’s scary. It’s scary. Right. So this is the fear and this fear is actually even more pronounced than Silicon Valley where they, frankly, invented a lot of this stuff which is, you know, New York Times wrote it up as almost this kind of irony.

PF I’m so tired of all the drama though. “Oh! Oh! Oh!” Cuz here’s what— Silicon Valley’s so proud of itself for destroying the world.

RZ It’s—

PF They love to fantasize about all the incredible cultural power they have. They can’t build a skyscraper.

RZ It’s this [both laugh] —

PF [Laughing] That thing— they built one good skyscraper—

RZ They can’t. After five stories, they’re fuckin’ confused.

PF Everything is sinking!

RZ They are confused.

PF You know they’re like, “Oh hey, we dug a hole four blocks away and we destroyed this skyscraper.” I’m like— what did we— New York City [yeah], we sure as hell can’t build Google.

RZ No.

PF But, you know, we’ve been doing that since 1910 [Rich laughs], you know, maybe you could’ve sent somebody over.

RZ It takes like three weeks.

PF Seriously.

RZ “Holy shit! When did that come up?!?”

[16:24]

PF Why don’t you just bring your— bring one of your iPhones out and take some pictures of the Woolworth building which went up [Rich laughs] in like 1915 and then take that back to San Francisco— what the hell, even email it over wireless. We have that in the parks. And uh and then maybe, you know, what you do is when you get the architectural renderings, I don’t know if they’ve ever seen this, you get the blueprints and you just write the words, “Don’t sink.” [Yeah] And that’s actually how the people in construction know but anyway San Franc—

RZ They love to signal out that they’re seeing things that other people aren’t seeing.

PF That’s right.

RZ They love to say, “Oh my god—”

PF They— oh yeah [whistles].

RZ “We are about three years ahead of this, guys, let’s talk this through.”

PF The phone emergency.

RZ All of it, right?

PF Yeah, they’re really into like— this is the thing: they’re kinda missing climate— we’re not gonna get to really, really strong AI taking over the world before climate change destroys all the computers. Like we’ve, you know, [Rich laughs] like [stammers] like I know Moore’s Law.

RZ We’re losing that race.

PF I know Moore’s Law! We’re gonna get— it’ll just be like Seamless’ll be really fast and then one day there’ll be four feet of water in front of your door. Like you’re not gonna get a really great, intelligent assistant.

RZ True. So wait! I mean is it legitimate?

PF It’s a lot of consum—

RZ We have to watch with these kids staring at their phones like passively?

[17:32]

PF Of course, of course you do. But you know what? God. Uh. As a parent, first of all: kids need to wind down like anyone else. It’s what you put in the brain.

RZ Ok.

PF Like uh maybe I’m lucky. I have good readers. I have very active, healthy kids. They’re healthier than I ever was. And they’re engaged and they have friends. They have all the regular problems that kids have, but it’s not cuz they’re watching an extra hour of Netflix every week. This is not really what we’re talking about. Now if my daughter was playing Candy Crush obsessively, you know, at age eight or nine, she’s seven now, then that’s an issue because that is like— that is a growing brain that has given itself entirely to Candy Crush.

RZ Yeah. You have to diversify the experiences.

PF And I have— my son likes YouTube cuz he loves to watch other people play video games and people are very paranoid about it—

RZ Well that’s a big thing, right?

PF I watch it really carefully. Everybody’s worried about strange alleys but, I don’t know, I keep a pretty close eye, I kinda know what’s in his cue and—

RZ I’m not sure if that’s that much different from watching other people play sports.

PF It’s like anything, I see— I have a little boy who loves to run and play soccer.

RZ Again: same parallels, right?

PF Yeah.

RZ Uh I mean that kid needs to run and play soccer, otherwise they go bonkers, and like my boy but—

PF If he tries to convince—

RZ— frankly, watching sports isn’t [yeah] destroying anybody. Uh people have been doing it for many years. At first they couldn’t watch it, they’d have to listen to it.

PF There’s so many other things to panic about.

[18:58]

RZ I’m gonna rant for a minute here.

PF Rant!

RZ My parents weren’t reading a lot of books. First off: there were no websites about how— we fled a war and we were immigrants in the country. I watched probably eight to twelve thousand hours of a mo— of a cat trying to eat a mouse.

PF [Laughs] And What’s Happening!!

RZ And [laughs] —

PF There was a cluster of after school reruns on when we were kids.

RZ Dude, it was— I— if you— we just— we just took a shit on Netflix. If you put on Netflix and wanna teach your kid the value of green vegetables [yeah] there is a cartoon for the value [oh yeah] like understanding and appreciating the value of green vegetables.

PF Have you seen the show Hilda?

RZ No. They’re all spectacular, dude.

PF Oh it’s a charming narrative of a little girl with trolls. Oh, it’s wonderful.

RZ Everybody’s learning manners! They’re learning how to eat [uh huh]; they’re learning about the world. There’s this show called Super Wings.

PF That’s right. And when they’re ready for Hitler, there’s 40 or 50 thousand shows to watch.

RZ Just a channel away [laughs].

PF Yeah! And then you switch to Amazon Prime and you got a hundred thousand.

RZ [Laughs boisterously] So, look, man, I’m not saying I came out great. That’s questionable [Paul laughs] but shit!

PF That’s a lot of podcast right there.

RZ I watched a lot— a lot— my mom was a smoker and she was going through a lot of stuff [uh huh] and it was hard, it was a new country, and I am just eating up Tom and Jerry. It’s a cartoon where a cat is trying to eat a mouse [sure] and it’s the dumbest thing you ever saw and I thought it was really funny [mm hmm] and I’ve watched the same episodes of that cartoon probably hundreds of times and I’m ok. I think—

[20:43]

PF When did you— when did you actually start reading? Was it law school? Was it undergrad? Like not learning to read but like there’s a point where you started to read a lot of books and a lot of stuff.

RZ It was probably undergrad.

PF Yeah.

RZ Yeah.

PF That’s the big difference, right? Like I think the only thing that would’ve been different in your life is if you’d started earlier.

RZ I think that’s right. I also was very fortunate you could pop open the back of an Apple 2 when I was 15.

PF Yeah. See but you had to read and learn about how that worked too.

RZ I did. I did.

PF And, you know, you’re reading the catalogue, you’re reading the computer magazine. Like you wanted access to that world.

RZ True. That’s true.

PF Yeah so that— This is the thing that people miss about technology and I think this actually does get— it kinda takes us all the way back around. When you’re young, the world inside of that computer is a whole world and that was true whether it’s an Apple 2 or the phone, and it is actually— people are worried about Google and they’re worried about Apple. See I don’t— when you’re a kid and when you’re a teenager you know that there are forces outside of your control that are much bigger than you and you can’t tell which ones are good or bad and you don’t really trust any of them.

RZ True.

PF What kids are doing right now is they’re looking at their phones and sometimes they’re mindlessly consuming content. As they get older, most kids get real suspicious and they start to take it apart, and they start to wonder what’s going on.

[21:55]

RZ And I think that’s really cool and, you know, you’re seeing a lot of products out there like little bits and— and where you can actually take apart the toy and make a different toy out of the parts because there are no screws on that iPad. That thing is sealed tight [that’s right]. It’s just a magic box to them [mm hmm]. They have no idea. They don’t even call it a computer. It’s just this thing that just has an endless supply of stuff.

PF Yeah and this is uh—

RZ I want them to be able to interact which, by the way, there are some wonderful things out there on an iPad or on a Chromebook, where they interact and they explore [dude] and they learn and they build. I had none of that.

PF Listen to me: we got you and me saying, “Oh it’s wonderful to explore.” And you’ve got the people in Silicon Valley saying, “Keep it away from them cuz it will destroy them.” You know what’s really gonna happen? Human beings have their own will and they’re pretty mischievous and they like to tear things apart like primates.

RZ True.

PF Teenagers will ruin everything. This current generation will come up and they will see Facebook and they will see Twitter and they will Google and they’ll be like, “What is this trash? It’s just been around forever.”

RZ That’s very true.

PF And you’re gonna go work at Google, it’s gonna be like going to work for the phone system when we were kids [yeah]. I mean it’s just like— this world will collapse into itself and that doesn’t mean that billionaires won’t remain billionaires or giant organizations won’t exist, it just means that tech moves fast, people can create what they want in order to communicate, and nobody maintains a lock in. So I’m just sort of like— we’re talking and we’re worrying about children because they don’t seem to have a lot of power but they have a lot of will, and they will start tearing all this stuff down to shreds.

RZ I think that’s exactly right.

PF And if you won’t let it and you lock em down, then they’ll go do something else.

RZ And— and I think the best thing we can do is to encourage that. I do think there’s a crossing point that if you let that kid— I do have— I’ve had friends over and they’re ten or 12 and—

[23:41]

PF Oh and the kid just stares.

RZ He’s— he’s just not— they’re it’s their babysitter, right?

PF Yeah, see—

RZ And the iPad is in their hands and their heads are down and they don’t— they don’t even say hello.

PF My kids— my kids wanted an iPad at four and I was like, “Eh.” [No] Cuz it’s too much like candy. Just little rectangles of delicious candy.

RZ It’s the passcode for us. We have an iPad, they don’t know it. And if we tell them, “You’re gonna get 15 minutes,” you’ll get 15 minutes.

PF Yeah. What is your— let’s close out on this: what is your um we said non-nerd obsessions earlier [mm hmm]. What’s your nerd obsession?

RZ Emulation.

PF Oh really?!?

RZ I love emulation.

PF It’s funny cuz we don’t talk about this that much but I’m pretty obsessed with it too.

RZ I know. It’s so cool. It just makes me happy.

PF Tell the people what emulation is.

RZ Emulation is when a machine transforms itself to behave entirely like another machine. So if you own—

PF Usually an older machine. Not always. But usually.

RZ Usually an older machine. I remember when they tried to press the gas and like the N64 emulator came out around when the N64 was out.

PF Yeah, it was like Mario could hop once a minute.

[24:42]

RZ [Laughs] But you know I mean credit to them for trying it’s like, “Wait a minute, it’s the same CPU, we can do this.”

PF This is— this is the super nerd like power play is to be an emulator writer cuz—

RZ Ah! It’s so badass!

PF— what you’re doing, you’re simulating another piece of hardware in software.

RZ Yeah. It’s so cool.

PF So that people can like play their games or run their software.

RZ And when the archive put out like, “Yeah. Here’s 11,000 arcade games you can play in your browser.” It’s over.

PF Internet Archive, yeah. That’s good. That’s the work of our friend, Jason Scott.

RZ And I was like, “Well, that’s that!”

PF And thousands of other people over time.

RZ Uh it’s just really cool. It’s cool cuz I like to see the glitchy startup. I like— [yeah] I like to see it boot up cuz it’s truly emulating. It’s not a port.

PF No and it’s rough around the edges, you know, you’re just like, “Oh this is where we came from.”

RZ What about you?

PF I like to research things actually. So lately I’ve been researching storage a lot. Like there’s just— I wanna know like what would it take to get a petabyte of information. This is actually inspired by Alan Kay who was a really uh important thinker in early technology and sort of big at Xerox PARC who at one point wrote an article about how what they were building was sort of the ten, 15 year later computer. You know they’re— they built these computers at Xerox that cost like 120,000 dollars in the seventies so like as much as a house.

RZ Yeah.

PF And— but they were trying to be desktop computers and I’m just sort of thinking to myself like what would the equivalent machine be for 15 years from now? And it’s gonna something like that— it’s gonna be, you know, what we think of now as almost infinite storage and [yeah] the processors can’t get too much faster but there were gonna be a lot more of them and there’ll be lots of little— so I just sort of— I like to continually come back to that mental exercise because the moment that we’re in now where five companies control the world and— and everything is sort of online and works in a certain way is going to change. And I just— I need to keep that in my head so that I feel like I’m adapting and ready for the future.

[26:36]

RZ Right. Growing up, Paul, I loved Legos.

PF Sure!

RZ And what I loved about them is obviously that they allowed you to be creative [mm hmm]. You could build stuff. I used to build houses and if you looked in the window of the house there was a little living room [mm hmm] cuz I’d make a couch and put it in the house [oh yeah] and a little table and a little TV. And my— my son gets Lego box gifts all the time.

PF Oh god yeah. No. Infinite supply.

RZ And they suck.

PF Yeah.

RZ Because it’s a little bat mobile.

PF Yeah.

RZ And the pieces are extremely specific to building just that batmobile and the instruction manual is 22 pages of how to make the batmobile and nothing else. And they— they have taken all the oxygen out of the room and there is no room for creativity and he can’t do anything else with those pieces. And this is more fundamentally my fear with where technology’s gone in that the controls that have been imposed—

PF “Follow these instructions to get this great outcome.”

RZ And you can’t come outside those guardrails, right? Like you can’t leap em.

PF Well cuz that used to be you were exploring your world and kind of figuring out— humans, you know, we’re primates. We wanna know where’s the— where are the boundaries? What’s the territory we can get to? [Exactly] What kind of power can we have? And you had a power where you were like, “I can make a house.”

RZ Yes.

[27:54]

PF “I am a house maker. I wasn’t that before and now I am.”

RZ Exactly. Exactly.

PF I will say it is fun to see, you know, I’ve got seven year old twins and now they get those and they follow the instructions together and they make them and then they tear them apart and they go into the mulch supply of the regular Legos which they still play with. So it’s working— it’s working at that age but [yeah] it— it actually— when they were younger which your son’s about a year younger, when they would get the toy, they would really feel obligated towards the toy.

RZ “I want the thing on the box”

PF That’s right.

RZ And that was it. And that was it. And beyond that and when you broke apart, which is did, it’s Legos.

PF Of course.

RZ They viewed it as broken.

PF No, it— as they grow that becomes a more ephemeral experience except for the people who get obsessed with Legos and want everything to be perfect.

RZ Right.

PF So, obsessions! Good or bad?

RZ Who knows?!? [Music fades in.]

PF Alright, Rich, let’s get out of here.

RZ Yeah, I wanna go use my phone.

PF I’m gonna have some chocolate. You getting chocolate?

RZ And I’m gonna stare at my watch while I eat chocolate. I have chocolate. I will give you chocolate. We will have a couple of chocolate links next to the podcast.

PF You know if you ever wanna work with us, there’s a very good chance you will have a piece of chocolate given to you in that first meeting.

RZ Excellent chance.

PF You just have to bring it up. We don’t like to showcase this too much cuz—

RZ No. No, no.

PF— people are like, “What?!”

RZ “What wrong . . . with this person?”

PF Yeah but if you want that piece of chocolate and even if you just want a little conversation: hello@postlight.com. That email goes straight to me and Rich and uh we like to talk.

RZ Have a great week.

PF Bye, everybody [music ramps up, plays alone for five seconds, fades out to end].

Nov 20, 2018
Can Design Be Open Source?: A conversation with Dylan Field about Figma and collaborating on design
25:02

How Do We Move The Rectangle: It’s no secret that we think design is integral to engineering great products. This week Gina Trapani and Skyler Balbus are joined by Dylan Field, CEO of Figma, to talk about how Figma’s collaborative interface design tool came to be.

We talk about how diverse creative backgrounds are essential to building design teams, how browser-based tools leave designers at the mercy of the browser, and the ways in which constraint inspires creativity and partnerships.

Dylan also shares a tip for new designers: get into open-source projects.

LINKS

Nov 13, 2018
Inspect Element : Diving Into The Complexity Of The Web
21:59
 

The Web is a Complex Place: Have you noticed that Track Changes has migrated off of Medium? That got us thinking about WordPress as a platform that’s changed enormously in the past few years. Front-end development has exploded. The way we use the web changed. No longer are we simply delivering pages and searching for things, we’re using the web to explore an infinite space! So how has WordPress responded to the levels of abstraction we’ve piled on to web development? Is this complexity a good thing, or a symptom of something ominous? One thing is certain: The way we think of the web has changed, and it doesn’t look like our culture of tech is headed towards simplification.

LINKS

 

 
 
 
Nov 06, 2018
Anniversary of Leadership
39:14

Don’t Add Bullshit To The World: In recent episodes you’ve heard from Paul, Rich, and various guests talk about scalingethicsdesign, and engineering — now it’s time to hear from Postlight’s other leaders. We discuss the diverse backgrounds of our leadership team, how have their roles have changed over time, and how we come together to make good software while shipping great products. This episode is also the debut of Paul’s new, deeper voice, which Gina Trapani calls “a massage for your ears.”

Oct 30, 2018
The Leaky World of Tech Reporting : A Conversation With Louise Matsakis
28:41

Tech is Giant, Monolithic, and Scary: This week, Paul Ford and Rich Ziademeet with Louise Matsakis to discuss how tech reporting has evolved alongside the hyper-growth of tech companies. How has the role of journalists changed? Which companies are difficult to talk to, and which are the easiest? 

More often than before, Louise says that journalists are playing the role of content moderators, forcing platforms to do more introspection and make broader changes. We touch on what’s topical in tech reporting today: What can be done to stop the culture of harassment prevalent on big platforms, how should scaling companies deal with oversights that screw people over, and how could we imagined role of the Facebook Press Secretary?

LINKS

Oct 23, 2018
Announcing Upgrade!
20:49

Creating a Language We Can Carry Forward: People get really good at bad habits. When we talk about digital transformation, we’re talking about more than software and systems — we’re dealing with how people work with software and with each other. This week, Paul Ford and Rich Ziade discuss Upgrade, our report on digital transformation. Why did we call it Upgrade? Because that’s what we’re almost always striving for. We talk about how real digital transformation happens, from idea through execution. What are you waiting for? Upgrade is available to download for free here.

Oct 16, 2018
Kill 'Em All : All Giant Platforms Eventually Self-Destruct
31:58

Never Going Away: It’s hard to conceive how tech giants will be destroyed. Might it be Government regulation? Another Great Depression? Genius disruption from Topeka, Kansas? This week, Paul Ford and Rich Ziade discuss the changeable future of tech by looking to the past. How does a company go from owning the market in a red-hot moment to a shadow of its former self? We talk about where companies like Microsoft and Xerox went wrong — and what they did right — while trying to predict what will finally undo the reigning champs.

Oct 09, 2018
Turning The Digital Product Studio On Its Head : In Conversation with Jules Ehrhart
35:50
 

What Is Creative Capital, Anyway?: This week, Paul Ford and Rich Ziade meet with Jules Ehrhardt, founder of Creative Capitol Studio FKTRY, the author of the term ‘digital product studio’, and an advocate for authenticity. On this episode, we talk about the problems with the old-guard agency model, where creatives are going instead, and how creativity is commodified and sold like sausage links. How does authenticity impact design? How are we changing the way we think about creativity by defining the language around it?


Jules — 3:15: “I think one of the problems the industry has is that people who are representing the industry and interfacing with partners and brands or clients, they don’t actually have a deep empathy and understanding for creativity.”

Paul — 5:25: “Sometimes we’re just delivering bad news to people. Like hey, that’s actually going to be hard and expensive. I hate to say it because I can see how optimistic and enthusiastic you are, but building things is really hard and it’s going to take a lot of time. That’s actually been really effective for us.”

Jules — 7:35: “There [are] enough people out there in this city, in this country, in the market who have been sold wonderful things and been disappointed. So for me, the only place to be is real, and in a world of perfect information — which we don’t live in — you will find your place and you’ll find that work.”

Jules — 8:45: “Our expertise is working with you, deploying our processes to get to a better place. You say that and it’s completely true, but then they’re going to reflect on this super-polished bullshit that they’ve just been presented by an agency. […] Yes, there’s a degree of sales if you want to call it [that], but it’s true, even in the honesty you’re actually doing the job of sales.”

Jules — 11:20: “The perception of this space [as an agency], there’s definitely a contagion effect from the worst practices of the industry.”

Jules — 13:05: “That was one of the miss-steps of the add-on marketing industry of pretending to do digital product work by just basically redressing case studies. In fact, rather than building product teams and product processes and getting away from the creative director model top-down, they’re going bottom-up.”

Jules — 17:45: “You’ve got tech companies providing a compelling alternative for creatives and people are increasingly going tech-side for better salaries and different conditions.”

Jules — 19:27: “I’m pushing something called ‘creative capital’. You can raise venture capital or you can raise creative capital. So for me, creative capital is a subset of Sweat Equity. What you do and what [teams I’m building] are capable of doing is making a pivotal impact upon a business.”

Jules — 21:05: “We [the creative class] need to understand how angels work, how VCs work, how investors work, how pension funds work, and everyone else — we need to understand their language, their business models, build relationships and understanding so we can build and forge these new models where it’s not a zero-sum game, it’s a game in which we can all win.”

Paul — 29:30: “The model is [to] name it, make a market, prove it’s real, and the rest of the entreprise — at it always does — will see it and go, ‘oh, that’s working, we should do that so we don’t get too far left behind.’”

Jules — 29:45: “I believe that we in the creative class should be exploring the intersection between creativity and capital.”

LINKS


Track Changes is the weekly technology and culture podcast from Postlight, hosted by Paul Ford and Rich Ziade. Production, show notes and transcripts by EDITAUDIO. Podcast logo and design by Will Denton of Postlight.

 

Oct 02, 2018
Design Matters : A Conversation on Digital Transformation
30:07

Harpal Singh

Design is Not an Add-On: Why did it take so long for design to come back into the conversation? This week, Paul Ford and Rich Ziade talk about Digital Transformation and the marriage between Design and Engineering. We talk about how how the importance of design is often misjudged when it comes to Digital Transformation (hint: it’s crucial), and how what may be common sense to designers isn’t always common sense to others. What are people risking when they forgo good design?

[soundcloud]

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Rich — 1:35: “The days of just getting a technology project up and running isn’t enough that you have to think about your whole business in terms of the world [having] changed, technology is part of everything and it needs to be part of how your business works.”

Rich — 2:20: “People are fully digitized in terms of how they interact with the world, and that’s how they need to interact with your business.”

Rich — 3:10: “This is something different. [Digital transformation] is about literally dismantling process as it exists today.”

Rich — 6:30: “I’m old enough to remember when it was really hard to sell User Experience services to big companies. They just didn’t get it. They didn’t want to get it. It was just too bizarre.”

Paul — 11:05: “I would say that without strong sea-level leadership, don’t do [a Digital Transformation project].”

Rich — 12:25: “Probably one of the biggest public failures of a massive technology mandate is the Obamacare debacle.”

Paul — 13:10: “That’s why Open Source is really good. Why are we building things for the government in secret? There could have been a collaborative public presence driven by a small team where that code was going right into the Commons.”

Rich — 13:35: “The truth is, if you’re not able to transact on the web on your phone, you’re kind of screwed. You have to get there.”

Rich — 17:45: “I think the way that they’re thinking about it is that design isn’t a phase or a discipline, but actually it’s no different than [somebody] saying I’m going to go ahead and build this sky scraper, but I’m going to skip the architect.”

Rich — 21:25: “We don’t call them ‘designers’ at Postlight […] we call them Product Designers. The spirit behind it is that the designer is not peripheral. They’re key to the quality of the product, to the definition of the product, [and] how the product is going to be differentiated.”

Paul — 22:00: “The engagement will fail if design doesn’t lead.”

Paul — 28:35: “Design is about making that least possible effort — my god, don’t just throw a bunch of candy corn on the floor and call that dinner.”

LINKS


Track Changes is the weekly technology and culture podcast from Postlight, hosted by Paul Ford and Rich Ziade. Production, show notes and transcripts by EDITAUDIO. Podcast logo and design by Will Denton of Postlight.

 

Sep 25, 2018
Scaling Ethics While Scaling Platforms
33:00
 

Making the World a Better Place: This week, Paul Ford and Rich Ziade discuss how the ingegrity of platforms like Facebook and Twitter has been compromised by their growth. We talk about Facebook as a company versus Facebook as a system, and why they are crumbling. Was the company ignoring user concerns or just waiting until it impacted their profit? 

 


Rich — 2:00: “People deciding that the governors of the Facebook world weren’t taking care of it well enough such that they’re emigrating out of it is a very big deal.”

Paul — 3:05: “It’s not slow growth — it’s departures. The Pew Foundation did a study and they found that [like] 1 out of 4 humans are taking a break [from Facebook].”

Paul — 5:15: “Let’s be clear: Platform companies only have transactions and metrics in order to understand how they’re performing. They have no sense of individuals, and if the numbers are down it’s like everyone is running around on fire.”

Rich — 13:45: “You could make the case that these were just selfish people just foaming at the mouth to make money, but you could also make the case that they were just optimistic about how humans were going to be when you put 2 billion of them in a very nice place where the gestures are, ‘I like you,’ ‘I love you,’ ‘I’m crying for you,’ ‘I’m laughing at the funny thing you did,’ — it’s all optimistic. There’s no middle finger.”

Paul — 14:10: “God, save the world from rich people with good intentions.”

Rich — 14:40: “It’s the exact same narrative around Twitter. Twitter said, ‘[…]We’re going to make everybody a publisher. Everybody’s a broadcaster,’ […] and it’s a cesspool.”

Paul — 16:15: “What you’ve got is a very very serious product problem and your product is at a scale that it interferes with things like the governance of the world and the way that human beings act and behave.”

Rich — 17:40: “It’s a real investment to take care of the integrity of the platform. What they didn’t anticipate was all these other sort of dynamic things that can take hold that are much more subtle and much more insidious.”

Paul — 18:00: “As far as they can tell, they were doing everything right until they weren’t. What happened is they created systems that were unbelievably easy to game. They actually had lots of good warnings, […] and they ignored it because I think they were getting so many other messages [that were] positive.”

Rich — 22:25: “The terms in the code of conduct that are easiest are the ones they can most effectively enforce. If you are threatening violence on someone, that’s very explicit, because what they want to do is avoid the perception of subjective judgement of what’s on there.”

Paul — 23:15: “You don’t have a congress that is truly ready to create a regulatory framework in the interest of the Republic and the world right now. We just don’t have it.”

Rich — 28:30: “I think the point we’re making is that this turned out to be way bigger than a startup and that the people at the wheel — I don’t think they’re evil — I think that their mandate it to squeeze maximum value for investors and not break the law.”

Paul — 30:00: “Facebook says it serves but it doesn’t really know who its master is.”

LINKS


Track Changes is the weekly technology and culture podcast from Postlight, hosted by Paul Ford and Rich Ziade. Production, show notes and transcripts by EDITAUDIO. Podcast logo and design by Will Denton of Postlight.

 

Sep 18, 2018
Dealing With Cycles: A Conversation with Michael Shaoul
27:50

 

Trusting Your Gut: This week, Paul Ford and Rich Ziade are joined by Michael Shaoul, the philosopher-manager of Marketfield Asset Management and expert on business cycles and the convergence of world events and geopolitics. Is the cycle of commercial real estate on its deathbed? Are shoes the only thing immune to downtrodden cycles? We discuss what happens when people tell you that you’ve got it all wrong, and exactly what you should do if you see a volcano at the company party.

 


Michael — 4:15: “There are multiple cycles that you learn to pay attention to. One of the things that I say is that when you look at cycles across decades or centuries […] the nouns and the verbs are always changing. It’s always something different, but the adjectives and the adverbs stay the same.”

Michael — 5:40: “Clearly we’re here in the middle of a great technology cycle. When it’s gone over its skis, when it’s no longer investible, when it’s outright dangerous, it’s a hard thing to notice. But if I went back to the early 1990s, language starts to change. Evaluation metrics start to change. You start valuing eyeballs rather than revenue.”

Michael — 6:45: “I don’t think I need to apologize to my children for not owning Bitcoin, but to me that’s what the end of one of these investment cycles looks like. You look like a moron for having not put an indiscriminate amount of cash to work in the space and everybody on the outside is kind of laughing at you and trying to pull you in.”

Michael — 8:20: “When I read your article on Blockchain, one of the things that really pulled it home to me because you were going back and talking about the late 1990s is how little fun is had towards the end of a cycle. It’s just miserable. There’s nothing genuinely creative going on, it’s all about the bottom line or the top line. Everybody’s expectations go beyond what is possible. It’s just a lot of stress and aggravation. Good luck keeping employees.”

Michael — 12:40: “I always say to people it’s okay to do something stupid and reckless with your money as long as you follow two rules: One is you put a small amount of money […] in it. Number two is you remember that you’re doing something stupid and reckless. The mistake people make is they think that they’ve found the answer and they overcommit.”

Paul — 13:00: “The people we know who are very into Blockchain who are kind of rational about it basically are like, hey, you’re going to the track. See what happens. But you don’t put your kids’ college funds in it.”

Michael — 16:50: “I publish my weekly thoughts on markets. […] I put together a sort of chatty weekly piece, just saying look, this is what’s happened in the last week and this is why it matters or this is why it doesn’t.”

Michael — 17:25: “[Macro] is a funny term. It’s like saying what does ‘technology’ mean? It’s a very broad term, so the way we look at it is we think at any given point in time [it is] the things which are worth focussing on. Obviously I’ll always talk about the S&P 500 in my job because that’s the starting point for whether it’s been a good week or a bad week as far as most people are concerned. We’ll focus on a particular sector we think is really in motion […] and ignore things that might be interesting but we feel 25 people have already written about.”

Rich — 19:45: “Technology is seeping into — or the world is seeping into — […] the formulas around valuing technology that come from really dramatically different places like foreign policy and security. If you had told me that 15 years ago that global geopolitics would affect Microsoft Excel…”

Michael — 24:20:Gatsby is still, to me, a great book about cycles. It could only get written at that point in time, it’s another cycle on top of everything else.

LINKS


Track Changes is the weekly technology and culture podcast from Postlight, hosted by Paul Ford and Rich Ziade. Production, show notes and transcripts by EDITAUDIO. Podcast logo and design by Will Denton of Postlight.

Sep 11, 2018
Going Off Script : A Coversation on SDKs
25:24

Pull to Refresh? How about Smile to Fave: This week, Paul Ford and Rich Ziade discuss the building blocks of software development. Why do apps so often look and behave the same? We break down the tension between working within beautifully designed parameters and the need to innovate. What principles do fast food and software share, and does this have anything to do with why Paul had so much trouble ordering his salad?

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Paul — 2:55: “This is the thing that people don’t know. When you come to us and say ‘write me an app,’ you’re asking us to write as little code as possible. That’s in your best interest.”

Paul — 5:05: “Why do apps look the same? Why do they behave the same? […] It’s because everyone is using the same libraries. It’s really tricky, right, because you’d think if you want to innovate, you’d want to break out of that.”

Paul — 5:45: “This is the great tension in our industry, because you want to innovate and you want to blow everything up, but the cost to do so is unbelievably high. […] I could go to the store, I could buy food, and I could cook from a recipe, or I could grow my own wheat.”

Rich — 9:55: “We’re talking about how these libraries are great for engineers because they get to skip. It’s great for users because the patterns and the gestures become common and becomes so much easier to pick up another app.”

Rich — 10:50: “Isn’t this the model behind fast food? It’s good because it has fat and sugar in it, but consistency is huge. Like people who go on vacations go to McDonalds because they know what they’re going to get.”

Paul — 15:50: “Design — brand focused design and the traditional qualities of design — were always about having a specific kind of voice. Like the work that Paul Rand does, or the work they do down the street at Pentagram. […] I recognize this, it feels familiar, it works within a set of parameters, but it’s original too.”

Paul — 16:10: “There’s a huge tension in technology where [you have to] follow the rules of the SDK, follow the Human Interface Guidelines and make it looks exactly like the other apps […] or you’ll lose the user.”

Rich — 19:35: “Credit to Adobe for giving every single engineer that worked on Photoshop props when you load it. The problem is that it zips by at 180mph.”

Paul — 20:00: “If Adobe Photoshop worked like Mac apps typically worked, it would be a lot easier to learn and adapt to. But it would also be less differentiated and it’s Photoshop and it’s Adobe so it has its own thing going.”



Track Changes is the weekly technology and culture podcast from Postlight, hosted by Paul Ford and Rich Ziade. Production, show notes and transcripts by EDITAUDIO. Podcast logo and design by Will Denton of Postlight.

 

Sep 04, 2018
Bad Blood: A Conversation on Megalomania in Silicon Valley
27:33

Product is Humbling: This week, Paul Ford and Rich Ziade talk about John Carreyrou’s Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies In a Silicon Valley Startup, a book about “what can go wrong when you believe stuff”. Drawing comparisons to Wild Wild Country’s Baghwan and the late Steve Jobs, this episode discusses the founder of Theranos’ charisma within the culture of Silicon Valley. Was the failure of Theranos to deliver its product a case of collective megalomania, mass hysteria, or simply a refusal to say “I don’t know?”


Paul — 2:00: “You’re looking in a mirror in some parts of this. You’ve met people like the people in this book. First of all, it’s hardware instead of software — and it’s healthcare hardware instead of software.”

Paul — 3:05: “You cannot deceive the public with your blood product and tell them, ‘come to Walgreens and we’ll test everything and we’ll tell you what’s wrong with you!’ when you can’t do that.”

Paul — 3:20: “There’s an element of self-deception throughout that I really found fascinating because that’s a big part of software. You kind of lie to yourself about how easy it’s going to be.”

Paul — 4:30: “Clearly [Steve Jobs] knew what the limits of possibility were and he would just shove people right up through that. Past that limit.”

Paul — 7:25: “It was also cool to see Silicon Valley connect to pharma, […] like this is Brave New World.”

Paul — 8:55: “Everyone is starting to realize that the marketing message doesn’t correlate to reality. It’s this very tricky thing where the agency isn’t quite sure what its ethical responsibilities are because they’re about to put help information up.”

Rich — 10:15: “You try to get in the head of the founder here and you have to wonder, is the founder terrible and self aware and has just decided, ‘ok, I am evil, I know what I’m doing is evil,’ or is this someone that just got lost and drank their own kool-aid?”

Paul — 12:45: “The book ended up being about the way that litigation affects the truth about business, and how a business is run and operated at a certain scale.”

Paul — 15:20: “Your number one job in any role where you’re dealing with the public is to reduce litigation risk. People don’t get that. My job has often been — when I’m writing, when I was an editor — you think constantly about the attack surface for litigation.”

Rich — 18:30: “There are two ways to get people to stay with your organization: Fear or, really, a sense of commitment or loyalty to the place […] where if you’re doing it right, if someone leaves, you pause and reflect on yourself and wonder what happened.”

Paul — 22:25: “It’s very easy if you are a smart, talented person who has succeeded to believe that you have perfect knowledge about things you know not a damn thing about.”

Paul — 25:45: “Nobody pretends that real estate in New York City is a utopian life-changing industry that’s gonna make the world better. It’s just savage vampires sucking blood from each other.”

LINKS


Track Changes is the weekly technology and culture podcast from Postlight, hosted by Paul Ford and Rich Ziade. Production, show notes and transcripts by EDITAUDIO. Podcast logo and design by Will Denton of Postlight.

Aug 28, 2018
Getting Creative with Marketing: Rick Webb's Agency
30:55

 

Don’t Quit Your Day Job: This week, Paul Ford and Gina Trapani sit down with Rick Webb, COO of Timehop, to discuss his 2015 book Agency: Starting a Creative Firm in the Age of Digital Marketing. Rick lays out how anybody — even someone born in a ditch in Topeka — can start an agency. He also leads a discussion about the legacy of viral marketing in his own career, and the history of the advertising mega-structure.

 


Rick — 5:55: “I think that at any moment in marketing there is some technology, craft, or medium that is the new emerging thing that’s very good for agencies to be able to make their mark in.”

Rick — 7:20: “The book is really written like you came to this business as a craftsperson.”

Rick — 7:50: “In the old days, an agency operated as an agent on behalf of their clients and the reason they’re operating as an agency is because they’re going to buy media… this is the classic definition.”

Rick — 9:10: “That’s why they really want video ads to be a thing and they have since the early 2000s. They could just take the model they had and use them again — and they are winning. It is slowly becoming that.”

Gina — 9:50: “Timehop is a great product. When it first launched […] it was something my company took a lot of inspiration from. It just let you kind of appreciate your social content in a perspective that you wouldn’t have had.”

Rick — 11:15: “[Timehop uses] programmatic advertising. We don’t do data-driven advertising. Your data isn’t in your advertising.”

Rick — 12:55: “There’s a business case for Timehop that’s out there, but really we took it because I believe in nostalgia. I always have. That’s why I wrote the first cheque for them. I like little simple things that are just a couple minutes of your day.”

Paul — 17:40: “So we’re living in this world of giants. We scamper around in the shadows of dinosaurs as a little mouse with our firm, but a lot of the people listening to this show are people who are doing a reset of some kind in their career. If somebody wants to get into your world, what do they do?”

Rick — 18:00: “I think one thing that really confounds everyone is the compensation structure of start-ups. Like there’s this widely pervasive belief you can get rich in start-ups.”

Rick — 18:50: “Right now, hundreds of companies are being planned in New York. Maybe one or two will become a unicorn. […] The minute you can tell they’re going to go anywhere, everyone else can too. It’s just a waste of time.”

Paul — 19:10: “Going to a late-stage start-up is just a job.”

Gina — 22:18: “In the beginning, though, you have to have some resilience for feast and famine. You know, when you’re first starting out, you have to be able to take a couple of months where you’re not getting paid or getting paid very little.”

Rick — 24:15: “You don’t have to quit your day job until you make enough to quit your day job.”

Rick — 29:20: “Advertising is a very, very, very big part of our world and people don’t think about it. […] Mass media and technology are both primarily funded by advertising.


Aug 21, 2018
The Innovator's Dilemma
28:47

The Only Success that Matters: This week, Paul Ford and Rich Ziade discuss the figurative moats that protect companies like Facebook, Amazon, and Google from competition. Has anybody really figured out how to disrupt their markets? Why isn’t Postlight jumping on machine learning and blockchain? This episode is about companies zeroing in on their own strengths and focusing on their right-sized ideas.


Paul — 3:10:“How do you function and thrive in a world where you know you’re never going to be the biggest? Where there are giant organizations with giant competitive moats around them and yet the whole narrative is like, ‘this is the only success that matters.’”

Paul — 6:10:“Starbucks at one point was making little coffee shops that were not Starbucks but were really cool and looked local. They wanted to just make sure they had a place to test out ideas and they wanted to make sure they were getting that market.”

Paul — 7:40:“It’s so hard for the legacy company to catch up.”

Rich — 8:10:“I think the way you disrupt is you eliminate steps. There was a day when you’d have to sign on to the internet with some internet provider. There was a day when you weren’t on the internet and when you wanted to get on the internet you dialed a number… Then you’d open your browser, and you’d go to Google.com, then you go into the search box and search. Google decided to come out with a browser. I couldn’t get it. Firefox was killer. It was excellent at that point in time… It turns out the only reason they were doing it was to eliminate one of the steps. The search bar and the URL bar became one.”

Paul — 11:40:“Organisms at this size are vulnerable in a very sort of macro way. They’re vulnerable to economic shifts, technological disruptions, and cultural shifts. They’re not vulnerable to somebody else [doing] something 4% better, because then they’ll just buy them. Maybe global warming will destroy Google.”

Rich — 16:30:“It’s funny, right? These monsters are competing with each other. They’re paranoid about each other. We started this with the moat. I mean there’s the moat between Starbucks and Pete’s Coffee — those are little moats compared to what’s going on [between Amazon and Google], so how the hell do you get in?”

Paul — 17:30:“What we did is we made a decision to just focus on being a good company that puts nice things in your hand, and build solid platforms.”

Paul — 19:16:“The giant tech companies, because they have such loud voices in the room, they get the press, they get to define the web and they define mobile… They eat up all that oxygen and they define success entirely for the vast majority of human beings.”

Rich — 25:15:“That’s the tone of this. Just keep your chin up. Don’t ask if [you’re] going to be the next Facebook. Who wants to be Facebook?”

Paul — 25:30:“When you are in this world and you listen and you pay attention to the media, you feel like an idiot if you don’t have a trillion-dollar opportunity.”

LINKS


Track Changes is the weekly technology and culture podcast from Postlight, hosted by Paul Ford and Rich Ziade. Production, show notes and transcripts by EDITAUDIO. Podcast logo and design by Will Denton of Postlight.

Aug 14, 2018
Why We Fail : A Conversation with Victor Lombardi
32:04

Learning from Failure: On this week’s episode Paul Ford and Will Denton sit down with Victor Lombardi to talk about how great experience design often fails. We talk about taking a humanist approach to UX design within a corporate role, look at design that has failed, and find ways to detect early signs of failure. We also make fun of Google Plus.

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Victor — 4:47: “When your product is money, it’s hard not to get greedy.”

Victor — 6:58: “That blew me away: that there are people doing this work. They can be technical but their job is really to interface with humans.”

Victor — 18:10: “If you’re not really in touch with the customer [that’s an early sign of failure]”

Paul — 19:34: “That’s your whole world view, and then [apple comes in] and is like, ‘actually you’ve been thinking incorrectly’”.

Will— 20:36: “Can we add a little addendum [to the book], ‘lots of money and sheer bravado will get you through’ [your failures].”

Victor— 20:39: “They have such a great history of questioning our expectations and getting away with it, that it’s become a pretty good strategy for them to keep cannibilizing themselves, messing with our expectations of what we should be doing with our software and getting away with it 90% of the time.”

Paul — 20:57: “You’re a humanist at heart … and that’s not a corporate mindset. The corporate mindset is that we have to basically be flawless.”

LINKS


Track Changes is the weekly technology and culture podcast from Postlight, hosted by Paul Ford and Rich Ziade. Production, show notes and transcripts by EDITAUDIO. Podcast logo and design by Will Denton of Postlight.

Aug 07, 2018
Putting A Fine On Great Experience Design
28:24

Great Experience Design Leads To Anti-Competitive Practices: In the wake of the EU’s decision to issue Google a $5 billion fine, Paul Ford and Rich Ziadetalk about how great experience design obliterates competition while antitrust laws cramp designers’ style. In between conversations about the ethics of being able to choose, we learn that Rich would die without being able to choose between Vietnamese and Italian coffee, and whispers that Postlight could be shipping an app to finally unite people who walk their cats on leashes. 

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Paul — 2:40: “It’s useful, right? Actually what I do is I use it with the kids a lot, when it’s like, who’s got the first shower? It’s like, ‘hey Google, flip a coin.’”

Paul — 3:05: “[Google] knows everything. It’s very smart and it’s a giant company that doesn’t just provide search interfaces anymore, even though that’s its base. It’s worth noting the way it makes money is advertising products on top of those search experiences.”

Paul — 4:15: “First of all, nobody wants DuckDuckGo down there. The people who do have already opted into hacking their palm tree out. It’s Google. Nobody wants ‘Bing Phone.’”

Paul — 6:35: Europe… home of Europeans who don’t always see giant privacy-busting companies that track you everywhere you go as a good thing. It’s a damn shame. I mean, what is the point of America if not to make those companies happen?”

Paul — 7:20: “The European Commission has fined Google $5 billion — which, actually is a meaningful amount of money, finally — for having all that convenience! What they see is that Google has pushed manufacturers to use Android on the phones that they create. It’s locked them into an Android ecosystem that Google controls.”

Paul — 8:25: “Now you’re in a position that’s not dissimilar from back in ye olden days when Microsoft got in big trouble for bundling Internet Explorer and really integrating it with the Windows operating system in such a way that it became less interesting and more of a challenge for people to download other web browsers.”

Paul — 9:15: “Many of our listeners are probably on iPhones, and they’re actually very much in the global minority.”

Rich — 10:30: “This isn’t working for me. What’s anti-competitive? It’s a phone. I’m going to be anti-antitrust. That’s a double negative, sort of. If you want to compete, design a phone [and] sell a phone.”

Paul — 11:10: “To catch up to Google feels like an impossible task.”

Rich — 12:10: “A lot of the motivation around antitrust is control and your ability to control the value of things.”

Rich — 13:20: “This is ultimately about the consumer. If competition does not thrive and people are not given the opportunity to innovate for the benefit of a consumer, then too much power gets concentrated in one place.”

Paul — 19:30: “Look, this was not the way it was supposed to go. The way it was supposed to go is that AOL existed, and then there was MSN, the Microsoft Network, and there’d be like four or five of those, and they would duke it out to provide cool services and interesting media content to people through their modems.”

Rich — 21:13: “The impact of anti-competitor practices and how they have to be modified actually affects the user experience.”

Paul — 24:25: “It will be a switch that handset makers will have to implement, and Google will have to make it part of the software, and it will allow for people to choose their browser and choose their default search experience and that will be embedded into Android. You won’t get the ability to search with your voice if you don’t opt into Google.”

Rich — 25:30: “Great experience design leads to anti-competitive practices.”

LINKS


Track Changes is the weekly technology and culture podcast from Postlight, hosted by Paul Ford and Rich Ziade. Production, show notes and transcripts by EDITAUDIO. Podcast logo and design by Will Denton of Postlight.

Jul 31, 2018
Version Control : A Conversation On Tracking Changes
25:42
 

Two Jabrons Shooting the Shit: Source management, change management, version control — is there a better, more modern way to track changes in software? This week, Paul Ford and Rich Ziade hash it out. For decades, change management has been a huge part of computing, but how has it developed over time? What works, what hasn’t, and where are we heading? 

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Paul — 3:00: “Really what it’s about is that life is not linear, work is not linear. Two people need to work on one thing at the same time.”

Paul — 3:25: “Code tends to be simple text files. Version control and change management of code have been a huge part of computing for decades and decades.”

Rich — 4:00: “The internal network, or the shared network, was a pivotal point. Because you wanted that productivity of having a shared network.”

Rich — 5:00: “You’re spewing out the key requirements of what’s gonna make decent version control. Keep versions — huge. Don’t just overwrite. Absolute requirement. Mark who did what.”

Paul — 6:10: “Here’s what’s tricky to remember. We need to track lots of files. We’re not just talking about one. It might be a big directory with lots of sub-directories and lots of files… You could lock a file and say no one else could get this. In some different kinds of version control systems, especially in publishing workflows, that’s the primitive version. You’re in a world of pain. Every time somebody tries to do locking in version control, it just means everyone is like, ‘Can I get the file?!’”

Rich — 6:45: “So locking’s not a good idea. You would think, rationally, that it would be a good idea.”

Paul — 7:10: “Locking still shows up. You still see it in marketing content management tools where it’s like I’m gonna go in and edit that file but only I can edit it.”

Paul — 7:35: “One of the reasons they like to lock in content management is that the content is really kind of arbitrary. If I give you two text files, it’s actually pretty easy for a computer to be like ‘this line isn’t in this file but it is in this one.’”

Paul — 10:35: “The modern way is decentralized version control systems. What makes them decentralized is that you have a copy of the code and you have a copy of all the changes that came before it. You download everything, and that sounds like it would be huge but actually it’s not.”

Paul — 11:20: “I want the latest version. I enjoy reading the source code. I have a twenty-year relationship with this piece of software at this point. One of my better, closer relationships in life.”

Paul — 12:15: “You don’t necessarily get every change that was ever made, except that if there was a change that lead to the current state of that software — like here’s what it took to get us to today, you’re basically guaranteed to have that version and all the versions going backwards.”

Paul — 12:45: “The nice thing about having everything is that you can make your own changes and you can compile your own software and that’s all good. If they do something you don’t like, you can roll back and work from the old version.”

Paul — 13:25: “What Github provides — the thing about version control systems is that there actually is no canonical version, and this is really hard for people to understand. I had my copy of the software, you had your copy… The whole thing that makes your text editor, including the icon. That’s all in a folder that I got from somebody.

Paul — 14:00: “There’s no owner, you and I are just sharing.”

Rich — 19:55: “In a way the revelation here is policing at the top level. Let everyone work. Nobody can step on anyone else, but to maintain order up at the top — very low coordination.”

Rich — 20:20: “There’s actually something very social about GitHub’s software.”

Rich — 22:50: “[Why did Microsoft buy GitHub?]To reconnect Microsoft to a new way of working.”

Paul — 23:00: “Microsoft has always been great about developers. For all of their faults and their justice department shenanigans, no one ever doubted that they truly cared about giving people a good experience writing software. This is keeping with the core ethos of the company. They want people to be more productive making and doing things with computers at a low level.”

A full transcript of this episode is available.

LINKS


Track Changes is the weekly technology and culture podcast from Postlight, hosted by Paul Ford and Rich Ziade. Production, show notes and transcripts by EDITAUDIO. Podcast logo and design by Will Denton of Postlight.

 
Jul 24, 2018
More Than Type & Color: A Conversation With Robyn Kanner
28:51
How does systems thinking influence design thinking? How much of shipping new design is about coping with anxiety? What do designers and basketball players have in common?

From Abstract Theory to Capitalist Practice: This week, Paul Ford and Rich Ziade meet with designer Robyn Kanner to discuss her journey from a tiny art school to a UX designer at Amazon to the founder of MyTransHealth. We talk about the conversations designers should be having and the complex systems that inspire Robyn’s design practice. Robyn also reveals the surprising turn in her design journey that taught her how to throw a literal punch while Paul and Rich wrestle with the idea that, much like a basketball team, different designers do different things.

[podcast player]

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Paul — 2:15: “That is a very empowering moment when you go like, ‘I can make my own reality,’ and as you get better you start to look like a better and better musician regardless of how your music is.”

Paul — 5:30: “When you create something and there’s a lot of heat and light, and you’re making that new thing, your life is really tumultuous at that point. Then it goes out — it’s very emotionally tiring to go back to it.”

Robyn — 5:55: “I think my identity was a ‘bad thing’ for a while and then all of a sudden became a good and popular thing, and never really having the time to process that while trying to ship an actual experience — that was sort of the experience of it.”

Robyn — 6:25: “It’s not that they weren’t understanding [my identity], they just didn’t know how to have a conversation about it. They weren’t able to separate me from the work that I did and it was a deep UX problem to solve that kind of stuff […] It was a lot of patting me on the shoulder like, ‘good job, kid!’ and I was like, ‘if this was a shoe company you would think I was the freshest shit. It’s because it’s like a healthcare company you’re devaluing me right now.’”

Robyn — 7:35: “[Design thinking] is a methodology. I think designers think very highly of themselves for something that’s remarkably simple for the most part. I think design thinking is like, ‘great, you know how to work post-its, cool!’”

Robyn — 8:15: “When I think of systems, I think of things that already exist. I think music is one of the most perfect systems ever because everything has a time signature, everything has a rhythm and a melody. They all work together at the same time which is to me the most wild shit in the world… It’s all harmonious.”

Robyn — 11:00: “What’s interesting in-house is that you have to deal with politics. I think if you take the sprint at face-value it’s really cool. Once you introduce company politics it gets a lot hazier. I think when it comes to that approach you need a person in the room who can balance feelings.”

Robyn — 14:00: “Everything has a legacy, right. Every time I touched a product at Amazon, I knew I might be messing with code that’s at least seven years old.”

Robyn — 15:40: “[The goal of Amazon] is to try to naturally be in your life.”

Robyn — 16:05: “If you use time as the success metric, then you start having questions about where does this person need me, or where can I be more effective in their life?”

Robyn — 18:20: “If we think about the classic definition of design, it’s the solution to a problem within aesthetic constraints. For some unknown reason, people got it in their head that that meant type and color. For the life of me, I don’t fucking know why, because for me it means so many different things, and those different things are the conversations that really excite me.”

Robyn — 22:35: “Yes, I’ll get you the rectangle but we’re gonna talk about it first. That’s it. If we have a conversation about it first and we can figure out that the rectangle does X, Y and Z, then I’ll get you the rectangle.”

Robyn — 24:00: “If somebody is asking me for a rectangle and they’re more frustrated with the fact that I’m asking them a question about the rectangle, I don’t think I’m the problem in that situation. I think the problem is you can’t tell me why you need a rectangle.”

Paul — 24:35: “So your goal is to back people into systems that they can then use to do better work in the future.”

Robyn — 25:05: “A basketball team is made up of many people that do different things. There’s a center, there’s a point guard, there’s a small forward — they’re all basketball players. ‘Designer’ is just an umbrella word that includes a lot of different people.”

[A full transcript of this episode is available.]

LINKS


Track Changes is the weekly technology and culture podcast from Postlight, hosted by Paul Ford and Rich Ziade. Production, show notes and transcripts by EDITAUDIO. Podcast logo and design by Will Denton of Postlight.

 
Jul 17, 2018
Can You Ship It? : When Design and Engineering Isn't Enough
24:49

The Game of Product Management: This week Paul Ford and Rich Ziade record a live podcast episode at our Ship It! meetup. We dive into the blockers that slow us down, the drivers that move us forward and we compete to see who can ship it. We also get a window into Paul’s keynote skills!


4:00— Paul: “[Product Management] is kind of the uber topic of our existence: How do we get these things shipped? We might know how to engineer, we might know how to design, but putting it all together and getting it out into the world is hard as hell.”

9:34 — Paul: “That looks like someone who can ship a process, we need someone who can ship a product.”

10:22 — Rich: “There’s nothing more effective than two or three people in Slack, beating the shit out of a problem. Meetings suck.”

11:25 — Rich: “This is about leadership stepping in and giving you advice because they just read a thing in Fortune.”

11:39 — Rich: “There is an art in responding to a leader and getting them to go away.”

15:18 — Rich: “Paranoia is very, very powerful.”

19:29 — Paul: “Even in success, you’re going to find failure.”

A full transcript of this episode is available.

LINKS


Track Changes is the weekly technology and culture podcast from Postlight, hosted by Paul Ford and Rich Ziade. Production, show notes and transcripts by EDITAUDIO. Podcast logo and design by Will Denton of Postlight.

 
Jul 10, 2018
The Evolution of Software with Tim Meaney
28:16

How did TIVO lead to Netflix? How does good software lead to empowerment? In this episode, we deconstruct the everyday impact of great software.

It’s pretty cool having control of the screen: This week Paul Ford and Rich Ziade meet with their friend Timothy Meaney, VP Product & Quality at Insight Catastrophe, to talk about what makes software great. Between the earliest spreadsheet programs, the hidden databases upholding Manhattan, and the ChromeBook interface that makes Paul’s kids cry, we learn how the best software is characterized by its simplicity.

[Podcast player]

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2:35 — Tim: “People also don’t think about software.”

6:10 — Tim: “There was something very powerful about computing, being from what you just described — me being alone in my room writing a game that I want to play myself — to talking to other people.”

6:50 — Tim: “The web, since [AOL Instant Messenger] has been about people.”

7:05 — Paul: “What’s interesting from the two of you is that the quality of greatness is accessibility. It’s not about inventing anything, it’s about making it accessible.”

8:00 — Paul: “Suddenly AIM replaced a whole category of communication. BASIC made it possible to program. MacPaint made it possible to draw.”

8:50 — Rich: “Photoshop has gone straight to hell! To hell with Creative Cloud! To tell with whatever is happening in Photoshop today. I don’t understand it.”

9:10 — Paul: “The magazine industry died, why do they make me relive it every day?”

10:05 — Rich: “Once it came to me — the mental model kicked in around layers in Photoshop — I lost my mind. I was like, oh my god, this is how everything is done.”

11:20 — Paul: “If you walk up and down the streets of Manhattan where we happen to be right now, billions and billions of dollars of decisions will be made this week based on Microsoft Excel and Microsoft PowerPoint. Those are the tools and the software that people will use to move entire markets.”

16:05 — Paul: “I just want to pull SQLite out and point at it because it’s a tiny piece of software and it stores data. That’s all. It’s a tiny database. It used to be that you’d go to Oracle and spend $30,000 to have this database. SQLite is on every Android phone, every iOS phone — it’s in just about every computer and every platform.”

21:20 — Paul: “TiVo was our first step on our cultural path to Netflix.”

25:40 — Tim: “The cycle is funny, right. It’s reached a point where it’s so transparent that we’ve ceded the control. A 10-year-old is not getting excited about gaining that control, they just have it.”

25:55 — Paul: “If you ever want to see a 6-year-old have a temper tantrum, just give them the interface to a ChromeBook.”

26:25 — Paul: “I thought the NYPD was gonna arrest me for downloading Chicago 17.”

26:50 — Paul: “God, I love a good shared file system between friends! I miss that in my life!”

A full transcript of this episode is available.

LINKS


Track Changes is the weekly technology and culture podcast from Postlight, hosted by Paul Ford and Rich Ziade. Production, show notes and transcripts by EDITAUDIO. Podcast logo and design by Will Denton of Postlight.

Jul 03, 2018
Privacy, Data Encryption and the Law
25:59
 

Virtual vs. Physical Privacy: This week Paul Ford and Rich Ziade talk about privacy around your data and devices. We talk about search warrants, argue about the systemic problems of the prison system, and look into the ways that encrypted messaging is influencing our laws. We also get a preview into Rich’s life as a lawyer!

[audio player]

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2:38— Paul: “Anybody can sue you for anything, at any time. So you need to be buttoned up, but also plan for that.”

4:48 — Paul: “In the future, if you ever want to start a business, buddy up with a lawyer. That’s my advice.”

9:42 — Rich:There’s laws right up to the constitution that protect our privacy in terms of our homes; our information.

14:07 — Rich: “How do you feel about technology that exists, that doesn’t allow for that next step?” 

16:55— Paul: “I dont actually see a fundemental difference between a virtual entity (like a communication network) and a physical space (like this guy’s house).”

18:20— Paul: “It’s very hard to ban end-to-end encryption, if people want it”.

19:41 — Rich: “Privacy is sacred, and it should be respected, unless there is enough reason to infringe on it because a greater good is being threatened or harm is being inflicted in some way.”

LINKS


Track Changes is the weekly technology and culture podcast from Postlight, hosted by Paul Ford and Rich Ziade. Production, show notes and transcripts by EDITAUDIO. Podcast logo and design by Will Denton of Postlight.

 
Jun 26, 2018
An Earnest Blockchain: Manoush Zomorodi on Creativity and the Internet
31:05
 

We sit down with the host of Zig Zag to talk about decentralization, feminism, and how the blockchain might fix journalism

The creators of Zig Zag: Manoush Zomorodi and Jen Poyant

Capitalism, Journalism, and Women: This week Paul Ford and xarissa sit down with Manoush Zomorodi to talk about her new podcast, Zig Zag, and why she left a steady job at NYPR to create a media company on the blockchain. We chat about what it means to create a podcast on a technology no one really understands yet, the importance of owning your work, and how decentralized platforms are benefiting women. We also get to hear Paul’s manatee impression!


6:34 — Manoush: “It wasn’t necessarily about an incident or a guy, it was about the whole system.”

7:29 — Manoush: “If [Trump] can be President, I can have my own company.”

14:17 — Manoush: “ I don’t understand the blockchain, no one understands the blockchain, so what if we actually made something that explained the blockchain… it’s the perfect narrative vehicle to explore all the other problems that we have with the internet.”

13:30 — Manoush: “You’re going to put this thing on the blockchain… and you can’t take that away from us.”

19:07 — Paul: “It’s tricky. You’re in this priestly cast when you’r ein the media, and you’re not supposed to get your hands dirty. Then there comes a point where you’re like, ‘do I believe more in the ethos of this culture or is it worth it for me to participate even though I might get cast out of heaven’.”

22:08— Paul: “There’s a point where you go, ‘I can’t be broke and smart’.”

24:56— Xarissa: “[Women] historically have been really bad at creating things that we own.”

LINKS

 

Track Changes is the weekly technology and culture podcast from Postlight, hosted by Paul Ford and Rich Ziade. Production, show notes and transcripts by EDITAUDIO. Podcast logo and design by Will Denton of Postlight.

Jun 19, 2018
The Whole Internet is Sneakers
34:05

How does the endless scroll of Netflix impact our desire for sneakers? How does the manufactured scarcity of shoes influence a billion-dollar secondary market? What is a sneaker bot?

The difference between iPhones and Sneakers: This week Paul Ford and Rich Ziade sit down with product designer Matthew Famularo to talk about sneaker appreciation, manufactured scarcity, and the second-hand marketplace built around sneakers. We get acquainted with sneaker bots and discuss the ways that teens unknowingly carry out digital strategy for their favourite brands. We also listen to Rich’s admiration of Paul Newman’s good looks.

[podcast player]

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5:25 — Matthew: “Part of this multi-billion-dollar industry of sneakers winds up being sold because the supply is so incredibly limited and the demand is so high.”

7:25 — Matthew: “People will camp out for sneakers… It’s like Apple products, it’s like when the iPhone comes out.”

9:40 — Paul: “There was kind of a larger trend of athletes going from cool hometown celebrities to global mega superstars where everything is affiliated with them, like when Steph Curry came out with his sneaker and everybody made fun of it — I don’t follow basketball or sneakers, but that was big news.”

10:00 — Rich: “It’s fully baked at that point. You’re not wearing a sneaker to go play basketball in the schoolyard. You can, but it became fashion.”

16:18 — Matthew: “It’s a multi-billion-dollar industry, sneakers. It’s a marketplace. Because of this multi-billion-dollar industry and supply that doesn’t meet with demand, there’s now a billion-dollar secondary market that StockX is participating in, that eBay is participating in, that people are using platforms to sell sneakers.”

16:30 — Paul: “There’s a low cost of entry, it’s connected to street culture, there’s an element of hustle to it, and there’s a key thing you’ve just described which is that you’ve got this marketplace over here, you’ve got this waiting room here, you can automate this — or you could, theoretically.”

16:55 — Matthew: “There are a lot of different kinds of sneaker bots that you can get and it depends on the shoes that you’re looking for… Some bots do all of them. Some bots only do websites that use Shopify. Some bots only work on jailbroken iPhones because they work on the Nike SNKRS app. You have to understand what you’re looking for, and dependant on that, there are a number of options available.”

17:35 — Paul: “Everything you can do with the web has ended up in sneaker bot development territory.”

19:25 — Matthew: “We are now exposed to digital objects more than types of physical objects.”

20:05 — Matthew: “What you have today is between the digital objects [of music, TV, and film] is the notion of scarcity has exploded. Netflix will just pour content over your head until you drown in it so the perceived value is gone. I think that this is almost in a way a reaction to it, because you actually have this thing you can cherish in a weird way because not everyone has it. You know for a fact that because of the marketplace that there are just not a lot of them.”

20:50 — Paul: “That aspect, that sort of raw capitalist consumption part of street culture got really into the brains of cool rich young kids who are like, ‘Oh yeah, $1500 for a cool pair of sneakers, that’s no big deal. I’m a DJ and my parents are funding the next 30 years of my college education.’”

22:00 — Paul: “It’s not such a big market that serious, giant players are really deeply invested in it so it stays kind of ground level. Even the fact that there’s this whole sneaker culture and the bots and so on becomes part of the mystique. The marketplace is now connected to the big public branding event… They’re seeing this growing marketplace as feeding into their overall big brand efforts. Matthew at some level is pulling off the digital strategy around perceived value in the adidas and Yeezy brand for them.”

22:50 — Matthew: “One of the key points is that demographically you’ve got teenagers who fully understand that everything’s disposable. Everything. My Instagram, my Snapchat.”

27:35 — Paul: “Watches are very specific. Watches are rich people catnip.”

28:25 — Rich: “I just it’s cool that there’s this appreciation for this thing that there aren’t just endless amounts of.”

28:35 — Matthew: “There’s a separation between how widespread it can be. On social media, you can see photos of the shoe everywhere. But you go to… Ohio, and you’re not going to see that.”

29:30 — Paul: “When we’re having our kids play Pokemon Go, we’re training them to be sneaker drop consumers.”

31:10 — Paul: “As a species we find scarcity. I think it’s really exciting and I think it’s because we like having access to everything and then we get really excited about rich people having access to things we don’t and we’re like, ‘well why don’t I have it?’”

LINKS

Jun 12, 2018
Less Machine Learning, More Human Learning: A Conversation with Charles Broskoski
26:16

Are you sick of productivity apps and social platforms that hijack your time? What happens when a platform encourages creativity rather than distracting us? How can you raise capital from users rather than ads?

by Chris Sherron

Less machine learning, less algorithms, less likes: This week Paul Ford and Rich Ziade meet with Charles Broskoski, founder of Are.na, to discuss how his platform moves away from the like-based models of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. We talk about how pattern recognition drives our creativity, discuss the difficulty of building a community that people are willing to pay for, and complain about Pinterest. Rich also discovers what an Art Prof is!

[Soundcloud]

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2:35 — Charles: “The main thing that you’re doing [with Are.na] is making collections of resources… You can throw anything in there and the point is that you’re thinking of things you’re consuming over a long period of time. It’s about doing this research and thinking about it as you’re doing things.”

4:15 — Paul: “It’s the overall platform of Pinterest that’s okay, and the membership is very very excited, but it just breaks the web. You hit Google images and you go into Pinterest.”

4:40 — Paul: “Compared to Pinterest, Are.na users tend to have intent when they link things together. Pinterest, on the other hand, is watching people and making these connections for them.”

9:30 — Charles: “I think what was appealing about Del.icio.us is that it didn’t orbit around likes and hearts and whatnot. The thinking was that you use it for your own selfish needs and the sort of by-product of that was something really great for everybody else.”

9:45 — Rich: “There was more of a culture around thinking and deep thought, about being more inquisitive and curious and less about performing a personality online.”

11:00 — Rich: “This is success now on the Internet. Build the tool that lets you ‘heart’ pictures and sounds… It’s born out of Twitter and Facebook and the like.”

17:40 — Paul: “So you’ve got this very abstract set of things. This has actually been one of the challenges of hypertext and the web in general, it’s that most websites end up looking like something that was there before. Newspaper websites look like newspapers. Youtube is about video of a certain aspect ratio that looks like TV… The thing that you’re doing here, the thing that you’re describing — which I think both Rich and I have found really hard to get across to people — is that here are abstract nodes that connect to other abstract nodes about concepts and they can be remixed. I’ve seen a lot of experiments along this line and I think that this one is really interesting in that forty thousand people doing abstract hypertext stuff is really a lot.”

23:00 — Charles: “We’re doing an equity crowdfunding campaign right now, and that was a sort of scary proposition… The scary part with a community like ours is that they’re very critical, they know what’s going on, and they’re very sensitive to changes — but it’s going a lot better than we ever expected.”

23:45 — Paul: “The mental model of what success is has to be changed to accommodate the spaces like this that people really want and will pay for and will be a good business.”

24:10 — Charles: “I’m also very optimistic that people are getting smarter — and I know this is a minority opinion — but people’s ability to pattern recognize different things that are happening in the world, that ability gets strengthened over time and there’s nowhere to put that.”

24:50 — Charles: “We just might as well not do it if we’re gonna do ads. It sets up a weird dynamic because your customer is not the user, your customer is the advertiser. Your motivation then is to serve the advertiser and not the user. We’re just trying to make a good enough product that people will pay for it. The type of people we’re after are knowledge workers, people who are working in creative professions. This is the tool that helps your thinking on an every-day basis.”

26:50 — Charles: “[What stops people from standing up Are.na] is that it’s really hard to build a community. The community building is a fuzzy activity — it’s inviting people, it’s talking to people. It’s not the same kind of productivity that you’re doing when you’re writing code.”

A full transcript of this episode is available.

LINKS


Track Changes is the weekly technology and culture podcast from Postlight, hosted by Paul Ford and Rich Ziade. Production, show notes and transcripts by EDITAUDIO. Podcast logo and design by Will Denton of Postlight

Jun 05, 2018
The Glut of the Platform Economy
32:49

How many cake decorating videos does it take to disrupt the platform economy? Would forcing constraint on platforms generate better content? How do we reconcile unlimited access to an infinite library when we’re being pummeled by bad content?

Endless scrolling is the opium of the people: This week Paul Ford and Rich Ziade discuss how platforms like Spotify, Netflix, and Youtube have turned into an inescapable hellscape of unfocused content. We talk about being disappointed with the infinite media libraries of our dreams, and the potential for platforms to redeem themselves by constraining content, while looking at how smaller creators are already doing that. Paul also reveals his utopian dream of a centralized platform of curated cake-making content.

 


4:45 — Rich: “I go to the track, and I go View Album, because I’m wondering if I’ve stumbled on an artist that I want to really dive into… then I go to the album, and I want to like it so I’ll give the album a full listen. There’s so much shit. I get through the first [few] tracks of the album and then the waves break the glass in my house and flood, taking the table and me and the chair, and I go to the next thing.”

5:45 — Paul: “You know what I’ve noticed is the truly talented young artists just produce EP after EP, for years, and then they’re like ‘oh, I’m gonna do this album now.’ They don’t jump to the album. It’s a high risk game. 80% of it is gonna be trash unless you know what you’re doing.”

8:30 — Paul: “With the pure algorithmically defined entertainment that Netflix specializes in, there’s this thing called Dinotrux. It’s dinosaurs that are trucks because they know that little boys like trucks and dinosaurs — little girls too! Have you seen Dinotrux? It’s so bad.”

10:00 — Paul: “It must have been very exciting though at first where it’s like, ‘I’m doing a new thing, a Netflix standup special,’ and then a month goes by and it’s just not as cool for the comedians. Now you’re like, ‘I’m doing a Netflix special!’ and your housekeeper says, ‘so am I!”

12:30 — Paul: “We have a developer/designer here named Darrell and he made a playlist expiration tool. It’s called Dubolt. It’s quite good, you seed it with a few tracks and parameters and you get a very good playlist back.”

13:30 — Paul: “So we’re hitting a point in the glut where we’re realizing that emotionally and intellectually it’s not that satisfying to keep waiting and searching. You saw this when cable TV suddenly had five thousand stations and nobody could figure out what to watch.”

14:00 — Paul: “There’s always the great simplifying agent, which in our industry is often Apple, [saying], ‘you don’t want all those choices.’ Now the problem that Apple has — which is the problem everybody who creates a successful minimalist approach has — is that everybody starts adding stuff to it.”

15:00 — Paul: “We’re in the glut. There’s very little quality in a glut. There’s no sense of quality. Literally, it’s just this tsunami of content coming in and we’re all just like, ‘wow, that’s a lot of content!’ You thought it was what you wanted.”

15:25 — Paul: “We measure creativity by how people respond to constraints.”

16:50 — Rich: “When I see a Netflix Original Series, I just assume — and I could be surprised — I assume it’s bad.”

16:55 — Paul: “Compare Netflix and Youtube for a minute. What do both of them solve? They solve distribution. Suddenly they were like, ‘oh my god, we can put moving pictures in a rectangle on a screen and we can get it out to millions and millions of people.”

17:20 — Rich: “There’s a phenomenal quote by the Chief Content Officer of Netflix. They said, ‘what’s your strategy?’ and he said, ‘we have to become HBO faster than HBO can become us.’”

19:10 — Paul: “Here’s a thing I think a lot about: Cakes. Cake making is a whole scene on Youtube. There’s probably 30 million people… who watch and subscribe to cake content where people smear things with fondant. Very charming people. They sell spatulas. That’s how they monetize. I sort of look at Netflix as being very well set up to capitalize on these nascent expanding scenes in a way that Youtube can’t. You’ve got thirty, forty, fifty cake-making personalities but Youtube doesn’t really bring them together.”

20:50 — Paul: “It’s a promise that everyone is roughly equal on the platform, which is weird because you walk down the street and there’s a giant picture of a Youtube celebrity painted on the side of a wall in Manhattan.”

22:00 — Paul: “Netflix is weird because it’s all about subjects and I almost think it should be more focused around verticals. Like channels, or something on Netflix where you can go over and participate as opposed to these ‘movies for people who like cats and have no hair!’ I think Netflix is totally primed to do that.”

24:10 — Paul: “The whole system is set up where the platforms make it challenging to create real utility. The ways that you focus by making products that allow them to access the media and give them new powers and understanding — the platforms are not set up for that. They’re set up for continual delivery of a single experience which is usually a rectangle of video. They’re focused around the media, not the actual usage of the media to do things.”

24:50 — Paul: “Youtube is just a big open hole that anybody can throw their trash into, and sometimes people are like, ‘that’s not trash! That’s good!’”

26:00 — Rich: “For the consumer, I’m worried about them. The motivation on the creator side is to just pour more and more on my head. For the consumer, that’s led to a terrible state. Everything’s garbage. Most things are lousy.”

26:25 — Paul: “Even when you have a lot of money and you do everything right, the odds are that it’s gonna be pretty bad.”

28:35 — Rich: “You know what the most popular piece of advice is now? [Companies are] telling the person: Leave your phone outside the bedroom. Take a book with you. Pause and think! Think deeper!”

29:10 — Paul: “It’s always been crappy bestsellers and big stupid movies with car chases. That’s been the baseline for a long time. It’s not surprising that in an era of digital glut we just end up with more. Not better, but more… Do you try to build the new platforms where there are more constraints and more creative work? That’s a way to address this but you are climbing a very high mountain.”

32:20 — Paul: “Constraints matter, but platform economics take over. You have to choose how to live in this world, because it’s being done to you.”

A full transcript of this episode is available.

LINKS


Track Changes is the weekly technology and culture podcast from Postlight, hosted by Paul Ford and Rich Ziade. Production, show notes and transcripts by EDITAUDIO. Podcast logo and design by Will Denton of Postlight.

May 29, 2018
Making Sense of Capitalism and Ethics: A Conversation with Christian Madsbjerg
28:45
 

Paul and Gina meet up with Christian Madsbjerg to discuss the ideas behind his new book, “Sensemaking: The Power of Humanities in the Age of the Algorithm”

What happens when you take a philosopher out of their element and plunk them into management? How can the business and tech worlds benefit from the humanities? Are we putting too much trust into algorithms and the promise of artificial intelligence?

Courtesy of ReD Associates

Just because Google does it, doesn’t mean we should do it too: This week Paul Ford and Gina Trapani meet with Christian Madsbjerg, author of Sensemaking: The Power of Humanities in the Age of the Algorithm. Christian ruminates on the limits of the algorithm, bringing human insight into tech and business where artificial intelligence falls short, and the impact of Elon Musk (ed. note: unfortunaltey this interview was recorded before the Met Gala)


4:00 — Christian: “Philosophers are for critique and against suggesting anything. But if you want to make something, you’ve got to suggest something.”

4:55 — Christian: “[Philosophers] see there’s still a way to have integrity in what you’re doing, and still deal with the kinds of things and the way they want to deal with them but in a different world.”

7:15 — Christian: “I suppose philosophy is just making manifestos — what’s sort of underneath us all the time, and that we didn’t think about. What’s happening, at least in the technology space right now, it’s this big reckoning. There’s this big sort of realization that there’s more to this than we thought there was. That’s what a philosopher would do, they would ask, ‘based on what do you say that? What are the underlying assumptions?’”

8:15 — Paul: “A vast number of our conversations… are ultimately about ethics. It’s a constant refrain through the organization. It’s daily and it’s top-to-bottom. Everything we do — maybe also because we deal with so many abstractions and so many requirements from the client — it’s more about preventing unethical situations.”

10:40 — Christian: “It’s often a group of people that aren’t like you and trying to understand what their life is like. ‘What is it like to be them?’ is the basic idea. You can enter their world and you can enter it in a way that can inform that world with whatever you’re making.

13:45 — Christian: “There are things we humans can do that we don’t understand yet. The fact that the machine can beat us in chess doesn’t mean that it can beat us in every other aspect of life, including understanding each other.”

16:20 — Paul: “No one is going to buy a car that sacrifices your life to save another life… We’re about to hit a wall. This is where capitalism and ethics are about to have a very exciting moment around self driving cars.”

16:45 — Christian: “Another way to think about driverless cars is [asking] are they really so attractive? Some people enjoy driving cars […]and that’s worth something as well. Another way of seeing it is that you can look at the people that get slaughtered in traffic every day, but does that really mean that all cars have to be driverless? Isn’t it a magical thing if you think about all the people that step into a car every day and they somehow find their way through these streets and they don’t crash?”

20:50 — Christian: “I wish [Elon Musk] would represent a more interesting dream for eighteen-year-olds than going to Mars.”

21:05 — Christian: “The first process is that in any public institution or any company there is a language that is often native to that place… The first thing is to translate that business language, or the language of the institution, into a human language. So how would human beings think about this? What would be the human phenomenon at the heart of this?”

24:15 — Paul: “So sensemaking as a practice is observing and understanding an organization well enough that you now have a foundation for organizational change, for defining what needs to happen now.”

25:55 — Christian: “The humanities are the place where you can try to exercise the muscle of [understanding] others in the most advanced way… The world of literature and art is a place where you can see human worlds in a way that’s advanced and interesting and often beautiful. So, often, the people that are good at [sensemaking] have a level of sensitivity to it.”

A full transcript of this episode is available.

LINKS


Track Changes is the weekly technology and culture podcast from Postlight, hosted by Paul Ford and Rich Ziade. Production, show notes and transcripts by EDITAUDIO. Podcast logo and design by Will Denton of Postlight. 

May 22, 2018
Meetings and the Question Mark
29:40
 

What conversations can we have in email? When do we need to transition them into meetings? How can we make meetings more productive, and less of a waste of time? 

Like Startups, Most Meetings Fail: This week Paul Ford and Rich Ziade chat about the inefficiency of frequent meetings. We discuss what makes a meeting fail within the first few minutes, and provide strategies that can be deployed to make them successful (like defining a leader). We also complain about the neverending email thread, and the disconnect between our daily lives and the design of Google Calendar. Rich shares his best excuses (Ed note: lies) to get out of a meeting! 


3:45 — Paul: “There’s the Two Pizza Rule for Amazon where no team should be bigger than what you can feed with two pizzas.”

4:00 — Paul: “I think there are three good meetings. There is, ‘hi, let’s all get in the room as higher primates and get a sense of each other.’ You need to see and understand the people who are going to be working with you on something. There’s the kickoff. Then there’s the ‘we went away and did some work and we wanted to show you that work and get your discussion within about a half hour.’ Then there’s the standing process focus meeting in which you know what you’re going to do, it’s about a half hour long, and it’s just more efficient to […] find out what the tasks are and walk away.”

6:10 — Rich: “This is free for all our listeners. It’s the opposite of saying ‘this is a waste of time.’ Ready? Here’s the sentence: ‘You don’t really need me for this.’”

6:30 — Paul: “The calendar is this territory that belongs to you.”

10:35 — Paul: “Let’s be honest. Calendering software is terrible. The way that we’ve arranged the weeks so that they’re verticle stacks from top to bottom, that’s now how humans think about things.”

11:00 — Paul: “Time really works like a slithering snake. It goes from left to right.”

11:50 — Paul: “95% of meetings fail within the first six minutes.”

13:37 — Rich: You know what the worst invite is? The preface is this: ‘We all gotta get into a room.’ You get in a room and you realize the email thread was way more productive than us getting in a room.”

15:00 — Paul: “I’ll tell you what I like. Email or meetings? Neither. They’re both terrible.”

18:30 — Paul: “My brain works that way. Business brains don’t work that way. They talk and talk… My brain works in 8.5 by 11 inch paper, top to bottom. I can’t get that in business, and I accept that. I always feel a little bit like a space alien.”

20:40 — Rich: “If there isn’t a clear path to failure, then that meeting is useless.”

20:50 — Paul: “What favour are you doing anyone by hiding the fact that you’re secretly a compulsive lunatic who needs them to do things?”

21:00 — Rich: “The three legs of a stool are ‘what is the thing?’, ‘who’s responsible for the thing?’, and ‘when are you gonna get the thing?’”

A full transcript of this episode is available.

LINKS


Track Changes is the weekly technology and culture podcast from Postlight, hosted by Paul Ford and Rich Ziade. Production, show notes and transcripts by EDITAUDIO. Podcast logo and design by Will Denton of Postlight.

 
May 15, 2018
Understanding Deception: Rex Sorgatz on Misinformation
30:30

How can true information be used to rile communities? What is the difference between misinformation, disinformation and malinformation? How is deception tracked and quantified? Is the next generation more media literate?

Häagen-Dazs is from the Bronx; Umami is from LA: This week, Paul Ford sits down with Encyclopedia of Misinformation author Rex Sorgatz. We discuss his new book, the ways marketers, newsrooms, and scientists use deception to their advantage, and the diffusion of misinformation. We talk about our role as consumers and how we’re changing the media literacy movement to revolve around systems of thought, rather than presenting everything as opposition. Rex also shares a list of supermyths (Spoiler: Colombus knew the Earth was round before he set sail).

1:40 — Rex: “Misinformation is data that is incorrect, effectively. Disinformation is intentionally spreading that information… Malinformation, which is relatively new, is not actually incorrect information, it’s information that is correct but spread with the intent of abuse.”

6:30 — Rex: “[Conspiracy theories] moved out of pop culture and onto the internet. I think back then, it was a playful thing, but now in the age of Infowars, I don’t know what to call it anymore. It’s a completely different thing.”

11:00 — Rex: “I grew up in a small town before the internet and I still remember having access to information that didn’t seem right.”

15:34 — Paul: “So this is a practical guide to the nightmare mediascape in which we find ourself.”

16:40 — Rex: “I tell people it’s barely a book. My publisher said to stop saying that…”

25:30 — Rex: “Instead we should try to think about how other people are coming to the conclusions that they’re coming to — it’s not a matter of what, it’s a matter of how. I think there’s a lesson in there about media literacy for kids, that we work toward letting them understand systems of thought, not presenting everything as opposition.”

26:20 — Paul: “We consume so much media, so much, all day… People are willing to lightly hold and connect to all kinds of ideas as they suck media down their media holes in their brains. Part of the literacy is giving people the credit as discerning consumers who accept and reject the things that they’re hearing.”

28:30 — Rex: “Learning is systems more than it is facts.”

A full transcript of this episode is available.

LINKS


Track Changes is the weekly technology and culture podcast from Postlight, hosted by Paul Ford and Rich Ziade. Production, show notes and transcripts by EDITAUDIO. Podcast logo and design by Will Denton of Postlight.

May 08, 2018
Welcome to Your CMS: Converging Management Systems
30:26
 

How have sales funnels changed in the past 20 years? What actually is a CRM or CMS? Are they merging together into a larger client management platform? This week, Paul and Rich sit down to discuss the new way of onboarding customers.

Systems Collide Into Each Other: This week Paul Ford and Rich Ziade sit down to talk about bringing the right clients into your company. We explain the three pillars that are working behind sucessful customer relationships: sales, customer service, and marketing. We define the differences between CRMs and CMSs, and discuss the convergence of the two. We also announce that we’ll mail a box of chocolates to anyone who comes up with a good name for this convergence!

 

1:30— Paul: “At some level, your funnel is everyone in the whole world. …”

2:20 — Paul: “Funnel is kind of a marketing term about getting from less qualified to more qualified. … about somebody signing on some dotted line and saying, ‘Yeah, I’m gonna do that’.”

3:53— Rich: “There was a day you’d have to stand out in the street with a sign. …That’s the old school, analog way of somehow taking the millions of little atoms that make up New York City and somehow filtering just a few into your shop.”

6:02 —  Rich: “There is software today that gets you way, way further ahead than standing outside of your shop with french fries.”

9:06 — Paul: “CRM is a big bucket term… but it’s basically how do I track people and how I’m doing at persuading them over time.”

18:07 — Paul: “Everybody’s a publisher on the web. Everybody.”

25:12 — Paul: “This platform is emerging where the people are in the funnel, the kind of content they see, the kind of opportunities that they have to integrate and connect to your thing… are all in one.”

28:33 — Rich: “It’s something big and beautiful. I would even say it’s broader than System A and System B colliding into each other.”

A full transcript of this episode is available.

LINKS


Track Changes is the weekly technology and culture podcast from Postlight, hosted by Paul Ford and Rich Ziade. Production, show notes and transcripts by EDITAUDIO. Podcast logo and design by Will Denton of Postlight.

 
May 01, 2018
Vendor Madness: Resist the Lure of the “Super Team”
30:53

 

How can you build software on small budgets and short timelines, without making everyone’s life worse? How can clients get a bunch of vendors on the same page? Is it even worth trying?

A Bad Way to Build Software?: This week Paul Ford and Rich Ziade chat about the problems you’re going to face when you hire multiple companies to build a single piece of software. We discuss the communication, latency and separate agendas that hinder the process of software creation and give advice on how to make it work.

 

4:28 — Rich: “When I go to management … I need dollars, I need timelines, and I need what it is…what are you going to give them, when, and how much is it going to cost.”

15:32 — Rich: “There is nothing that will bring more friction, more latency, and more disagreement than human beings that view themselves as orbiting around separate entities but have to somehow come together to build a thing.”

15:50 — Rich: “The single biggest risk to designing and building stuff is the dependencies and the reliance and the agendas of different groups of people.”

17:21— Paul: “The overall software experience is a unified thing, and it comes from a unified team. So if you put those different vendors in the room, really what you’ve done is you’ve incurred a month or more of teaching them to communicate with each other, and they’re all going to have different processes that they use to get stuff done.”

20:51— Paul: “What you’re doing is creating a pathological work environment, even if these places have good work environments themselves.”

28:19— Paul: “If people would take this seriously, and think about it, they could save themselves so much… just so much emotional pain.”

28:58 — Paul: “It’s a big messy world out there… but vendor madness is very dangerous.”

LINKS


Track Changes is the weekly technology and culture podcast from Postlight, hosted by Paul Ford and Rich Ziade. Production, show notes and transcripts by EDITAUDIO. Podcast logo and design by Will Denton of Postlight.

Apr 24, 2018
Who Really Made The Internet?: Claire L. Evans on Tech History
26:51

How did cyberpunks and activists affect the tech industry? Do we understand the history of the internet? How much of what we know comes only from a man’s perspective? This week, Claire L. Evans tells us about her new book, Broad Band, and the women who created the internet.

Photo by Jaclyn Campanaro

There Were Women In The Room: This week Paul Ford and Gina Trapani sit down with Claire L. Evans to chat about her new book, Broad Band: The Untold Story of the Women Who Made the Internet. We discuss the impact of online communities, how weird the dot-com era was, and the stories of the women who made things work. We also get a window into YCHT’s future project — the Broad Band Musical!


2:29 — Claire: “[This book is] a corrective if you will, of all the books we’ve all read and love about Silicon Valley, and the garage-to-riches stories of entrepreneurship… These are the stories about the women who were in the room the whole time, and nobody asked about them.”

5:06 — Paul: “Women get forgotten from activist histories too, and it was kind of an activist scene in the early days.” 

5:22 — Gina: “Weird was welcome, in a way that is no longer the case.”

7:03 — Claire: “My big takeaway is how little we value long-term care and maintenance when it comes to building things… I profile Stacy Horn, who founded Echo BBS in the late 90s. It still exists. And she has devoted 25 years of her life to fostering and caring for this community. … She’s taking care of something, because she’s responsible for a community, and I think that’s really beautiful.”

8:24— Claire: “We mythologize the box, but it’s the users that change the world; it’s what you do with it. The culture work, the development of making things worth linking is almost as important as making the conventions for linking. 

8:24 — Gina: “It’s broadening the definition of what making the web was. It wasn’t just about standardizing protocols and running code, it was about building the places where people wanted to come and connect and share.” 

9:07— Paul: “Moderation…it’s critical, it’s key to these communities but it doesn’t get as much appreciation as ‘I wrote a page of code.’”

20:51 — Claire: “We’re all very siloed in the contemporary media landscape.”

A full transcript for this episode is available.

LINKS


Track Changes is the weekly technology and culture podcast from Postlight, hosted by Paul Ford and Rich Ziade. Production, show notes and transcripts by EDITAUDIO. Podcast logo and design by Will Denton of Postlight.

Apr 17, 2018
How To Cope With Facebook…Or Not
28:14

What information is Facebook gathering? Do we really understand how our data is being used? Is it time for Silicon Valley to step up and address our concerns around privary? This week, Paul and Rich sit down to discuss the problems with Facebook (beyond its ugly interface) and the lack of governing body around our data security.

Mark Zuckerberg holding a cat (that is very much alive)

They Have One Product: This week Paul Ford and Rich Ziade sit down to chat about the hellscape that is Facebook. We chat about the lack of communication around what is happening with your data, discuss what Silicon Valley’s role is in protecting our privacy, and complain about how ugly the Facebook interface is. Rich also paints us a picture of Zuckerberg holding a dead cat!

 

2:01 —Paul: “They have one product, the product is the social network and your access to that social network. So privacy should actually be something they have worked out in my opinion.”

2:01 — Rich: “They’re doing stuff to me I don’t know about. That’s very different to me than privacy.”

9:37 — Rich: “And so what I just described to you is the human cookie, right?”

13:34 —Paul: “what we’re seeing here is that there’s no . . . centralized controlling authority for all this stuff, right? Like people think that there’s might be order or like a governing body . . . but it doesn’t work that way.”

17:34 —Paul: “What the hell is goin’ on in that interface though? As we make fun of it as a giant, monolithic privacy destroying pseudo-government… as a product it’s just an insane circus — it’s just this blue and white hellscape.”

21:57 — Paul: “I think people assume that consuming is a kind of making, right?”

26:03 — Rich: “Zuckerberg? He creeps me out. The way he holds his hands out… It’s like there’s an imaginary dead cat in his hands. I can’t — I can’t peg it, man. He freaks me out.”

A full transcript of this episode is available.

LINKS


Track Changes is the weekly technology and culture podcast from Postlight, hosted by Paul Ford and Rich Ziade. Production, show notes and transcripts by EDITAUDIO. Podcast logo and design by Will Denton of Postlight.

 
Apr 10, 2018
Introducing Postlight Lebanon
25:50

How do you grow a company successfully? How do you build a company that values its culture over its profit margins? Can you successfully grow a company that started in NYC, in Lebanon? This week, Paul and Rich sit down to talk about the growth of Postlight and the amazing new team in Beirut!

The Postlight office in Beirut, Lebanon!

Growing in Two Places: This week Paul Ford and Rich Ziade sit down to talk about the growth of Postlight. We chat about how Rich’s Lebanese background informs the culture at Postlight, the misconceptions around outsourcing work, how to let your own team of engineers make hiring decisions, and the lessons we’ve learned from growing a company across an ocean. Paul and Rich also revel in the snacks they miss from Lebanon!


7:28 — Rich: “Being Lebanese is part of the way we do business.”

9:24 — Rich: “There’s no factory farm of humans that you lease out, to put some code out in Lebanon. They just don’t think that way.”

12:15 — Rich: “A team starts to form and they said, ‘we want to be part of you, we dont want you to just throw stuff across the ocean because you had a thing that needed to get done that wasn’t interesting. We want to join you’. And to hear that from the other side was really, really interesting.”

14:49 — Paul: “We got a clear signal back saying, ‘[outsourcing] wont work, just like it wont work anywhere. You need to have us be part of your culture, we need to connect, and then we’ll do work at the quality that you expect. And we want that for ourselves and you should want it from us.’”

15:07 — Paul: “What you don’t get is some easy, spreadsheet savings; but what you do get is increased capacity to do quality work, which is actually where our growth is as a company.”

16:48 — Rich: “We’re actually not driven by metrics. We’re driven by doing great work, finding great opportunities, doing great work again.”

24:05— Paul: “Theres a really good chance here that the good cultural things that helped us grow, are gonna happen in Beirut too.”

LINKS

 

Track Changes is the weekly technology and culture podcast from Postlight, hosted by Paul Ford and Rich Ziade. Production, show notes and transcripts by EDITAUDIO. Podcast logo and design by Will Denton of Postlight.

 
 
Apr 03, 2018
Decentralized Journalism : A Conversation with Maria Bustillos
29:06

Is the blockchain more than bitcoin? Can the publishing space be taken out of the hands of banks and billionaires? Can local journalists band together to make the change? This week, Paul and Rich sit down with Maria Bustillos to discuss the future of the news on her new blockchain-powered publication, Popula.

Blockchain Fever: This week Paul Ford and Rich Ziade sit down with Maria Bustillos to talk to about Popula— a blockchain based publication on news and culture. We chat about what it means to publish journalism on Civil: Self-Sustaining Journalism, honouring archives, the power behind direct and transparent news, and how Popula is working to address the problems that centralized banks have caused the world. Rich and Paul also try to write a song, titled Blockchain Fever! 

 

5:05 — Paul: “The internet exists because people took a piece of technology and an idea into their heart, and couldn’t leave it alone until it manifested…and I can see that happening with bitcoin.”

5:34 — Maria: “Blockchain technology isn’t the answer, but it’s the paper that you can write the answer on.”

7:55 — Maria: “Journalism has a lot of problems: in its funding model, in its deteriorating archives, in the vulnerability to billionaires who don’t like what we write. …And all these things can be addressed using blockchain technology.”

9:37 —  Maria: “Whenever we publish anything on Popula, a text version of it will be published to the Ethereum blockchain, and it cannot be altered. Ever.”

12:00 —  Maria: “It protects again Peter Thiel, it protects against linkrot, it protects against the degradation of search engines.” 

16:00 —  Paul: “So local journalists are banding together and they are going to publish using these blockchain technologies on Civil. So does this get rid of the quixotic billionaire who funds the news?”

24:54 — Maria: “We know it’s anti-bank, it’s anti-central bank, that it’s anti the dilution of currency. These are significant problems. They’re serious problems. There’s nothing bullshit about this. It’s not about instantaneous wealth, it’s not specifically anti-government either. It’s about addressing the problems that centralized banks have caused the world.”

25:28 — Rich: “So this is a statement. Can you build economies and startups on a statement?”

A full transcript of this episode is available.

LINKS


Track Changes is the weekly technology and culture podcast from Postlight, hosted by Paul Ford and Rich Ziade. Production, show notes and transcripts by EDITAUDIO. Podcast logo and design by Will Denton of Postlight.

 

 

Mar 27, 2018
Computing is Everywhere : A Conversation with Bret Victor
36:36

Can electrical engineers create tangible objects? Do we really need to be writing lines of code in a text-editor to be programming? Is it time for society to redefine what it means to compute? This week, Paul and Rich sit down with Bret Victor to discuss his journey from Electrical Engineer at Caltech, to UI Designer at Apple, to Creator of his ultimate vision, Dynamicland.

The building is a computer; the computer is a building: This week Paul Ford and Rich Ziade sit down with Bret Victor to talk to about Dynamicland — a non-profit that’s inventing a new computational medium, where people work together with real objects in the real world (not alone with virtual objects on screens). We chat about the tech behind Dynamicland, the importance of creating intentional communities, and how a culture of secrecy at Apple inspired a life-long vision of community computing. Bret also shares a surefire way to impress a date — bring them to GuitarCenter and show them your analog modeling synth!


3:58 — Rich: “The bureaucracy got obliterated; all the machinery that usually slows you down was gone. The parents weren’t home!”

13:14 — Bret: “I came in the first day, went ot my desk and there was an iPad sitting on my desk. This was 2007. The iPhone just had been released. The iPad was not a thing at all… and I said ‘what is this?’ and my boss said ‘well we don’t know, Steve wants a tablet’.”

16:03 — Bret: “I was starting to see that my values and Apple’s values were a bit at odds. Apple ultimately wants to enable people to listen to their music, and read their email, and watch videos, and have an entertaining digital experience. I wanted to enable people to understand things more deeply or create amazing things that they couldn’t create before.”

22:08 — Bret: “It’s hard to have the level of motivation to pull off something really huge like that, if you don’t have the right support structures in place.”

22:08 — Bret: “We want to create a medium that works for all people. So growing our community, we’ve been pretty deliberate about reaching out to people who aren’t on Twitter and who aren’t traditionally advantaged by technology.”

LINKS


Track Changes is the weekly technology and culture podcast from Postlight, hosted by Paul Ford and Rich Ziade. Production, show notes and transcripts by EDITAUDIO. Podcast logo and design by Will Denton of Postlight.

Mar 20, 2018
The Internet Got Shrinkwrapped
29:12

Has the entry-level to the internet become too high? Has the purpose of the web shifted from a software platform to an information delivery tool? Have we lost site of what the internet really is? This week, Paul and Rich sit down to discuss the levels of abstraction we’ve created to make the web easier, and the problems it has created.

The website as we know it is gone: This week Paul Ford and Rich Ziade sit down to talk to about the expansion and simultaneous shrinking of the web. We talk about creating abstractions to make the web more accessible (like Google Docs) and the ways that has also limited our ability to understand what the web is. Paul takes over Can I Tell You, and Rich provides words of comfort — no one gives a shit about your life!

 

4:11 — Paul: “on one hand you have someone saying the web is about giving people access to publishing, giving people the ability to publish and communicate outward … and on the other hand someone is saying, you’re asking us to move backwards in time”

5:55 — Rich: “The story arc of the web to where we are today… isn’t even the web. It’s just this wild network of protocols that have been appropriated by a few companies.”

7:33 — Rich: “It’s over. The notion of having to do the heavy-lifting is gone. Everything is shrinkwrapped.”

8:26 — Paul: “A designer does better if they actually understand the stack underneath”

11:06 — Rich: “There is a generational thing… that they view the web as a software platform and not an information delivery platform.”

12:09 — Rich: “I think the term ‘website’ and what it represents, is gone.”

13:28 — Rich: “the infrastructure of the world, the things people use day to day, the way that people access information… the web is still actually flawless and unmatched for accessing that information.”

14:54 — Paul: “you’re always playing catch-up and then there’s all this new stuff… it’s hard to get it done.”

15:58 — Rich: “The web originally had the organizational characteristics of a library — this notion of stuff in rows and columns. Google abstracted away any notion or implication of organization… the notion of a page, the webpage, was obligerated.”

19:53— Rich: “Technology should give you abstractions that give you more power.” 

22:05 — Rich: “We’re getting dumber, it’s getting smarter. It got smarter because we got smarter.”

Mar 13, 2018
Flickr and iCloud and DropBox, Oh My
29:57

Are your photos scattered across multiple platforms? Can you access them anymore? Are you locked into platforms you barely enjoy? On this week’s episode, Paul and Rich sit down to discuss the impossibility of getting all your files in one place.

Photo by Martin 

We’re locked in: This week Paul Ford and Rich Ziade sit down to talk to about a major problem with giant platforms — getting locked into them. We talk about having our documents scattered across multiple platforms, the impossibility of possessing your photos, and becoming trapped by a giant platform without realizing it. Rich also pitches an app that’s based on the hugs he didnt get from his father!

 

4:11 —Rich: “I want all my shit in one place… and it turns out, it’s hard.”

5:55— Paul: “Apple didn’t do anything particularly nefarious. We entered into a relationship without thinking about how that relationship was going to end. Which we all do; as humans, we’re optimistic creatures. So you get into Apple and you think it’s going to work forever … and then you’re caught, you’re locked in.” 

6:30 — Paul: “The more lock-in [technology companies get], the better they’re doing. The more their stock prices go up, the more people like and respect them.”

11:23— Paul: “It strikes me as sort of hilarious because everyone in Silicon Valley is like ‘disrupt, disrupt, disrupt’, but there is nine levels of middle men here, all owned by one or two companies. And you can’t wedge in there.” 

18:54 — Paul: “These big platform companies love to lock you in. It’s absolutely in their best intrest.”

22:37 — Rich: “Google’s doing it right. Lock-in is scary. Own your shit.”

LINKS

Track Changes is the weekly technology and culture podcast from Postlight, hosted by Paul Ford and Rich Ziade. Production, show notes and transcripts by EDITAUDIO. Podcast logo and design by Will Denton of Postlight.

 

 

Mar 06, 2018
Is Your Religion Art or Technology?: A Conversation with Aaron Lammer
27:35

Is bitcoin still operating in a vaccuum? How do we trace it back to market value? What does startup technology and bitcoin have in common? Paul and Rich talk to Aaron Lammer about smoking weed, the similarities between startups and bitcoin, and the future of the blockchain as a post-national project. 

Photo by Anna Rose

It’s healthier to see it as gambling: This week Paul Ford and Rich Ziade sit down with Aaron Lammer to talk about his new podcast Coin Talk. We discuss the stability of bitcoin, the value of human satisfaction, and the similarities between bitcoin investors and startup founders (spoiler alert: it’s that you have to be a bit insane). Rich also grills Aaron on his shift from marijuana enthusiast to financial advisor!

 

4:00 — Aaron: “[bitcoin] combines a lot of stuff that I’m really interested in. It has elements of startup technology media world, but it also has some game theory, and some like . . . just like gambling-y stuff. And I also think that people who are like, say, investing their own time and resources in startup technology are doing a form of gambling.”

4:41 —Paul: “It’s healthier to see it as gambling; if you see startups as a business, you’re an idiot.”

8:17 — Aaron: “There are a lot of currencies in the world that are less stable than Bitcoin.”

8:53 — Aaron: “I believe really strongly in like experiencing these things…like you don’t want to get lectured about Twitter by someone who’s not on Twitter. You really have to like experience technology to get it.”

14:36 — Rich: “I think today [bitcoin] is nonsense. Eventually there has to be a dotted line to actual value, whether it be services or resources. Bitcoin is in a vacuum, as I see it today, and eventually somebody is going to want to trace that line. It leads to nothing today. 

17:45— Aaron: “It could potentially be a post-national project, in the same way that many opensource software projects are post-national. The blockchain is really just the lowest layer. Once you take that idea of an immutable server that everyone can access without anyone controlling it, whether the project succeeds or fails is whatever people can build on top of that. And the first thing that they’ve built on top of it that’s truly been viral is money.”

26:16— Aaron: “Is your religion art or is your religion technology? And where will it be in a hundred years? Will it be with a technological religion or an art religion?”

A full transcript of this episode is available.

LINKS


Track Changes is the weekly technology and culture podcast from Postlight, hosted by Paul Ford and Rich Ziade. Production, show notes and transcripts by EDITAUDIO. Podcast logo and design by Will Denton of Postlight.

 
Feb 27, 2018
Are Smart Homes the new HVAC?: Paul and Rich discuss the pros and cons of a connected home.
25:29

Do you need a security camera for your front-door? Do you need programmable lighting? Are smart homes really innovative? Paul and Rich talk about the pros and cons of connected homes, the security of our information, and the impossibility of competing with giant platforms like Google and Amazon.

Smart Homes, Foolish People: This week Paul Ford and Rich Ziade sit down to talk about connected homes. We talk discuss the pros and cons of distributed networks, the fear of sharing data with giant platform companies, and ask if smart-tech is eating away at our creativity. Paul also predicts that one of Zuckerberg’s 2018 goals will clam-digging!


5:15 — Rich: “All of this stuff is so you have to do less. I used to love that sense of achievement when I had a 486 computer and when I finally got it to print in colour, because I bought a colour printer that took 20 minutes to print a colour page and it only worked right because I got the latest drivers that were crashing before, but finally it was working right. That felt so good. We’re eating away at the skills needed to do some incredibly complex things.”

7:57 — Paul: “This is the fundamental flaw of everything though right? Which is that your home is increasingly becoming a set of distributed network processes and the way the cable companies and the routers are set up it’s very difficult to gain access to those from outside of your home”

11:44 — Paul: “What’s happening is you’re seeing the same thing that always happens, which is that enormous consolidated players are starting to get their platforms together. They’ll get into a partnership. Like Amazon, I’m sure, is talking to Netgear right now.

13:30 — Paul:“The big platforms, because of their ability to form relationships with other big platforms, always tend to win.”

14:17— Paul: “In ten, 15 years from now this will be built in like HVAC.”

A full transcript of this episode is available.

LINKS


Track Changes is the weekly technology and culture podcast from Postlight, hosted by Paul Ford and Rich Ziade. Production, show notes and transcripts by EDITAUDIO. Podcast logo and design by Will Denton of Postlight.

Feb 20, 2018
The Elephant In The Room: Paul and Rich talk to Chris O’Neill, CEO of Evernote.
25:55

Are we living in a post-file world? Has our cultural understanding of “notes” changed? Paul and Rich talk to Chris O’Neill about innovation, acquiring talent,and the importance of focusing your team. 

The Ups and Downs of Focusing: This week Paul Ford and Rich Ziade sit down to talk to Chris O’Neill, CEO of Evernote to discuss the company’s shift in focus. We talk about acquiring talent as an established company, digital hoarding and how to compete with a pen and paper. Paul also compares NYC to a hatchet, and California to a widdled stick!

 

 

4:30 — Chris: “[We] came from a place of wanting to be innovative and I think we spread ourselves fairly thin as a company. So part of the first step for me, was to spend time with our users and spend time with the founder of the company and really reflect on what is our purpose in the world? And how do we rally solely around that?”

7:09 — Paul: “You’re not the new hotness, you’re ten years old, you’re Evernote, everyone’s heard about you, they’re 23 years old so they’ve known you to exist since they were 13. How do you convince talent to come work for you?”

13:18 —Chris: “WordPerfect and Microsoft Office were only like 30 years ago, 40 years ago. And all the metaphors were physical things: desktop, file, folders, and there’s a very good reason for that: Microsoft needed to have a metaphor that people understood. Now the problem is we’re stuck in that metaphor. You use Google Docs. Like a Doc is an eight and a half by 11. That little picture I scribble on the pad of paper, a whiteboard, an audio note, a business card — is that a file? I don’t know. I don’t think so. We’re in a post-file world.”

17:36— Chris: “People are going to find things that work, whether that’s pen and paper or Evernote, or whatever, people are gonna find what works for them. So why don’t you actually empower and enable them? That’s a mega trend I think you’ll see in the workplace . . . things are going to be user chosen but then companies will enable them.”

16:45— Rich: “Let’s talk about Information bankruptcy. I have a friend. I once took a look at her computer for a moment and she had about 77 tabs open. They didn’t look like tabs anymore…It is digital hoarding to some extent. It is that feeling that if I just put it away somewhere then I put it in my brain.”

A full transcript of this episode is available.

LINKS

Track Changes is the weekly technology and culture podcast from Postlight, hosted by Paul Ford and Rich Ziade. Production, show notes and transcripts by EDITAUDIO. Podcast logo and design by Will Denton of Postlight.

Feb 13, 2018
The Three Second Rule : How to Destroy Your Linked In Profile
26:20
 

What does Chief Compliance Officer really mean? What do you actually do? Paul and Rich sit down to talk about job titles, ruining our LinkedIn profiles, and the value of clarity.

What does Grandpa do?: This week Paul Ford and Rich Ziade sit down to talk about terribly unclear LinkedIn profiles. We chat about the evolution of titles like Evangelist or Entrepreneur In Residence, and how to capture someone’s attention in three seconds. Rich complains about contracts and Paul makes a compelling defense for white chocolate.


0:38 — Rich: “There’s the ceremonial title which is ‘Co-founder’, which speaks nothing to skill or vocation.”

2:11— Paul: “Boss [as a title] is a great. You never see that on a business card.”

7:05— Paul: “The X at Y is a really good formulation if you’re trying to break through and let people know what you’re about. ‘Self-employed’ is tricky. It should be Self-employed Something at first. You know? Self-employed Writer, Self-employed Designer.”

9:47 — Rich: “I think this is a good piece of advice, generally: LinkedIn flies under people’s noses… You’re always on a list with about 200 other people… so if somebody’s giving you the three seconds, you gotta really nail your headline.”

23:55 —Rich: “ If you keep going back to Clause 6A1, you will destroy the relationship. You will destroy it. The thing exists in the first place for mutual benefit. I get money from you, you stay in my apartment, right? If I go back to Clause 6A1, because you didn’t take the garbage out and put it in the front, therefore I’m gonna ask you for an extra 50 dollars, right? Cuz it’s in the contract. You just destroyed actually something far more durable than the actual contract.”

A full transcript of this episode is available.

LINKS


Track Changes is the weekly technology and culture podcast from Postlight, hosted by Paul Ford and Rich Ziade. Production, show notes and transcripts by EDITAUDIO. Podcast logo and design by Will Denton of Postlight.

Feb 06, 2018
Venturing Into America’s Prison Problem
26:34

How can a side-project become a multimillion dollar venture? How has San Quentin become a technology incubator? How can we work to curb America’s prison problem? Paul and Rich talk to Chris Redlitz about Venture Capital and his newest nonprofit, The Last Mile.

Invest in the Pivot: This week Paul Ford and Rich Ziade sit down with VC, Chris Redlitz to talk about his newest venture, The Last Mile (TLM). What started as a mission to instill hope in prisoners has become a technology incubator and coding school. We talk about access to information, the stigma around hiring criminals, and the tangible steps we can take to curb mass incarceration and reduce the recidivism rate in America. Rich also reveals his subconscious love of tight polyester pants!


3:52 —Chris: “We’ve seen some of the best companies come out of pivots or side projects.”

9:34 — Chris: “Kenyatta Leal who was in our first [round of the program], he’s on our board of directors, he was serving a life sentence when I met him as a result of the three strikes reform. He was released, now he’s on his four year anniversary and he works for a technology company here in San Francisco. Someone like that has just become a beacon of hope for those inside.”

11:56 — Chris: “The first thing that we recognized was that many of [the students] just lacked hope. They lived in a box and they thought in a box…And so our first premise was to instill hope and confidence, so that they could dream big.”

12:58 — Chris: “It’s come a long way from this idea of just instilling hope. Now we are teaching practical skills and we have guys getting out, getting hired as software engineers. We just had three guys hired within the last month in the Valley as Javascript coders.”

A full transcript of this episode is available.

LINKS


Track Changes is the weekly technology and culture podcast from Postlight, hosted by Paul Ford and Rich Ziade. Production, show notes and transcripts by EDITAUDIO. Podcast logo and design by Will Denton of Postlight.

Jan 30, 2018
A Good Omelet
21:40

Are we experiencing bitcoin’s tulip-mania moment? Do we need to care about the iPhone X? Is Russia our biggest threat? Paul and Rich talk about the top three letdowns of last year, and make predeictions for what’s coming down the pike.

A Bad Technology Year: This week Paul Ford and Rich Ziade sit down to talk scrutinize 2017. We talk about being letdown by iPhone X, relate the bitcoin economy to tulipmania, and question how we will deal with cyberwarfare in the future. We also make goals for the year ahead —  Paul wants to go to more museums; Rich wants a good omelet!


5:01 — Rich: “I think if you trace money back to its roots it’s goods and services, right? … So, I don’t understand where the dotted line goes from Bitcoin. It seems to go back to Bitcoin.”

5:40 — Paul: “we live in an economy that favours bubbles…It takes an entire aluminum smelting plant in China to process one transaction on wish.com with Bitcoin… At what point do you look at this and go, ‘Maybe this isn’t sustainable.’”

6:05— Paul: “The Silicon Valley ethos around technology, if you talk to venture capital people they are very, very focused not necessarily on making amazing, awesome products. That’s a big part of what they do but what they really wanna do is make the marketplace. Google is a great search engine. Truly great. Probably the best in the world. However, where it really is, is a marketplace for ad distribution.”

11:19 — Rich: “If you can maintain scarcity that’s where value lies.”

13:26 — Rich: “This is a big deal, right? Because what we saw is that platforms can be consolidated to the point on the internet that they have massive, direct cultural power. And then you can feed that with complete garbage information that satisfies the users.”

17:17 —Paul: “We’re two Mr. Digital Guys and we went to war without knowing it. And we just got the crap kicked out of us….the Russians were like, “Well, what can we do?”… “We can’t use nuclear weapons. That’s really bad. Let’s avoid that, at least so far.” ... “But boy, you know, with one relatively cheap cable modem line we can destabilize a giant global democracy”.

A full transcript of this episode is available.

LINKS


Track Changes is the weekly technology and culture podcast from Postlight, hosted by Paul Ford and Rich Ziade. Production, show notes and transcripts by EDITAUDIO. Podcast logo and design by Will Denton of Postlight.

Jan 23, 2018
Dynamically Linked Library (of Congress)
34:27

For decades, the Library of Congress seemed to err on the side of keeping information on lockdown, but Kate and Abbey have changed that. We talk about digitizing archives, creating cultural memory, and rethinking what a library really is.

Jan 16, 2018
Getting on the Inside
25:13

What does product management really mean? How can you effectively couple design and engineering to bring a product to life? Paul and Rich talk about the difficulty in defining the discipline of product management, the three red-flags you should avoid on a resume, and how to demonstrate value under an ambiguous title.

You report to the product: This week Paul Ford and Rich Ziade sit down to talk about hiring product managers who do more than the hand-off. We delve into the intersection of design and engineering, why product management is so difficult to define, and the value of curiosity. We also share our top three ways to destroy your resume! 

Jan 09, 2018
The Currency of Attention
31:59

How can you pitch your product without boring an investor? How have audio platforms won the competition for user attention? Paul and Rich talk to Matt Hartman about product development, chatbots and the importance of creating products that establish a sense of connection.

Competiting with the Infinite Scroll: This week Paul Ford and Rich Ziade sit down with Matt Hartman, Partner and Director of Seed Funding at betaworks to talk about creating products that stick. We delve into the future of chatbots, why audio is an exciting space to invest in, and how to not bore an investor with your pitch. We also challenge Rich to start the new year with daily positive affirmations!

Jan 02, 2018
A Battle for the Net (Again)
28:57

Check your shoes. Are you standing in shit already?: This week Paul Ford and Rich Ziade make the case that net neutrality was never enough. Of course, congress’ vote to to repeal net neutrality protections will have huge impacts on innovation, product development and the way we think about equality. We delve into the ways that we can we compete with the giants, the disruptive tech that’s created in protest, and we compete for the title of Most Cynical (Spoiler: Rich wins).

Dec 26, 2017
Life in Code
28:20

Have we moved too far away from the mainframe? Do engineers need more empathy? Does technology have a woman problem? Paul and Gina talk to Ellen Ullman to find out how the past 20 years of tech are shaping the next 20.

Dec 19, 2017
The Medium is the Mission
32:11

Words matter, writing matters and that mission is alive and well at Medium. Paul and Rich talk to Head of Product, Michael Sippey to find out more about making money in publishing, the importance of good content and his three-step approach to product management.

Dec 12, 2017
Death in Feeds
23:19

Are we building the dystopian future we’re afraid of?: This week Paul Ford and Rich Ziade talk about Amazon, Facebook and other big-tech companies that have changed our basic human interactions. We delve into the commoditization of our feelings, valuing efficiency over communication, and the despair that comes from seeing a death announcement on social media (especially when it’s bumped up against a recipe for a chocolate soufflé). 

Dec 05, 2017
Spreadsheets Are Off The Table
30:27

For decades, startups have tried to unseat the mighty spreadsheet, with no success. Does Airtable, a database for the web, have what it takes? And what did it take to make Airtable? Paul Ford and Rich Ziade talk to Airtable co-found Andrew Ofstad to find out.

Nov 28, 2017
Breaking Up is Hard to Do: A conversation about Facebook
39:34

Is Facebook a monopoly? This week Paul and Rich tackle the 2-billion-user elephant in the room and go back and forth on two big questions: whether Facebook violates antitrust laws and should be broken up, and how the platform (or its regulators) can solve its rampant fake news problem. Topics covered include what “breaking up” Facebook would even look like, how the platform might verify news sources, separating news from satire, and the general public’s ambivalence about privacy and security.  

Nov 21, 2017
Matt Lieber has a Gimlet Eye
41:24

From the front lines of the podcast boom: this week Paul and Rich talk to Matt Lieber, co-founder of Gimlet Media, one of the most successful podcast studios in the industry. Topics covered include the company’s origin (and the podcast that chronicled its founding), how Gimlet recruits and trains its editors, the trajectory of the medium, why you shouldn’t play favorites amongst your employees, and how Matt has been re-cast as a sleazy door-to-door salesman in an upcoming ABC comedy produced, directed by, and starring Zach Braff.

Nov 14, 2017
Paul and Rich Try to Talk About Something Else But End Up Complaining About LinkedIn Again
24:58

Is there a way to fix LinkedIn? This week Paul and Rich return one of their favorite hate-topics: LinkedIn is, in Paul’s words, “a remarkable affront to everything that we care about and believe in.” They discuss “human spam,” various UX gripes with the platform, Paul’s methods for “killing the virus” to eliminate certain types of social connectors, resumes, and various suggestions for improving the product—including a $100 offer to anyone who can build a Chrome extension to implement their ideas.

Nov 07, 2017
Rob Dubbin Goes Off-script
45:26

From TV writing to scriptwriting software: this week Paul and Rich talk to Rob Dubbin, former writer and producer for The Colbert Report and The Late Show and current CEO of Scripto. They discuss Scripto’s creation and the special workflow challenges coordinating a late-night show, animal welfare, transitioning from writing to tech, Bluetooth, Google Wave, and more.

Oct 31, 2017
Shutting Down
25:52

How do you pull the plug on a product people love? This week Paul and Rich talk about good and bad ways to shut a digital product, from giving people a path to export their data (good) to writing a blog post entitled “Our Incredible Journey” (bad) (very, very bad). Topics discussed include AOL Instant Messenger (RIP), communities around software, Rich’s experiences shutting Readability, and Paul’s experience pinpointing the fundamental ethos of the web: “Why wasn’t I consulted?”

Oct 24, 2017
Jenn Schiffer Relates to Developers
49:31

Building a community for developers: this week Paul and Gina talk to Jenn Schiffer, community engineer at Fog Creek’s Glitch, a platform for developers to write, share, and remix code that is, in Jenn’s words, helping to “lower the barriers for developers to build great things.” Topics discussed include development frameworks, how coding is taught, cultures of harassment online and in the tech world, and the (sort of mindblowing!) way a bloomin’ onion is made.

Oct 17, 2017
Fighting the Hype
35:15

New technologies vs buzzwords: this week Paul and Rich discuss the challenge of sifting through trends in the technology world—and how they help clients separate what they need from what they think they need. Topics discussed include SOAP, machine learning, Paul’s love of the words “matrix” and “vector,” React, blockchain, the iPhone X “notch,” and, most importantly, paddleboarding.

Oct 10, 2017
Glenn Brown on building a digital-first Obama Foundation
40:55

Building digital tools for active citizenship: this week Paul and Rich talk to Glenn Brown, the chief digital officer at the Obama Foundation. The conversation works through each major stop in his career, from Harvard Law (including the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society) to Creative Commons to Google and YouTube to Twitter to his current role. Topics covered include the mission of the Obama Foundation, copyright and fair use, what “product counsel” does at a place like Google, the power of livestreaming, and Rich’s fantasy vision of a Miami courtroom.

Oct 03, 2017
Paul and Rich: Good Problems to Have
34:47

“The bad times, as a manager, are easier than the good times”: this week Paul and Rich discuss a “good problem to have”—managing growth as demand for your work grows. They talk about their personal experiences at Postlight before offering up a series of tips for managing growth, including not taking on too much while still not compromising on the approach and philosophy that got you there.

Sep 26, 2017
Anna Holmes Stays on Topic
45:35

New horizons in digital media: this week Paul and Rich talk to Anna Holmes, the founder of Jezebel and current SVP of Editorial at First Look Media, where she recently launched the visual storytelling site Topic.com. They discuss her early magazine career, the rise of online media, comment sections vs social media conversations, and what it's like to run a more reflective site in a world of reactive takes.

Sep 19, 2017
Rich and Paul on Security
34:48

How does Postlight tackle security challenges? This week Paul and Rich begin the episode with takeaways from the Apple iPhone announcement (which they had not yet heard at the time of recording) before diving into a wide-ranging discussion on digital security, from personal worries to the Equifax breach to the steps they take as a company to ensure clients’ data safety. They then tell the story of the first $20 Postlight ever made—a tale about infidelity, large datasets, AshleyMadison.com, and a trio of guys who were definitely up to no good.

Sep 12, 2017
Oren Mor on Shipping Software at Google
43:12

The challenges of product management at scale: this week Paul and Rich talk to Oren Mor, a head of product at Goldman Sachs and a former product manager at Google. They discuss his entry into the industry, making the technology behind Microsoft’s Kinect, his pivot to finance, and his return to tech at Google, where he spent years shipping ad products. They then go deep into the online advertising world, including ethical concerns around ad placements and the new taxonomies that’s creating on the web.

Sep 05, 2017
No Agenda: A Chat About Meetings
34:51

What makes a good meeting? This week Paul and Rich set out to break down everyone’s least-favorite part of the workday—the meeting—but they wind up breaking down complicated office management dynamics along the way. They do offer concrete tips and strategies, from how to keep your head down early in your career to keeping the agenda focused and specific to the beauty of ending a meeting early.

Aug 29, 2017
Design Takes Command
39:01

How design came to drive business: this week Paul and Rich talk about the evolution of the role of design in the tech industry, from Microsoft’s early dominance—privileging function over form—to Apple’s ascendency in the past decade, where user-centered design, particularly on mobile, has led to their success. Topics discussed include the McKinsey consultants, the early history of Apple, the jumble of titles and roles in the digital design world, and Rich’s perpetual hatred of Apple’s chief design officer, Jony Ive.

Aug 22, 2017
Speech Coach Bill Smartt Offers His Best Advice for Better Public Speaking
38:42

Understanding the fundamentals of public speaking: this week Paul and Rich talk to Bill Smartt, a coach who believes that everyone can improve their speaking skills. They break down his three big tips—speak up, slow down, and make eye contact—and discuss (and practice!) breathing exercises that can help when stagefright kicks in. They also discuss his origin story, which involves some poorly-placed dry ice at a Nashville Halloween party.

Aug 15, 2017
Keeping Remotes Close
37:30

Remote working, iPhone cases, and Spotify’s UX: this week Paul and Rich tackle three very disparate reader questions. In the first, they outline Postlight’s remote working culture and the tools they use—most notably, Slack—to help everyone stay on the same page. Next, they talk about the iPhone as a design object—and our desire to immediately cover it up with a case. And finally, they go in on Spotify’s clunky user interface when asked: if Spotify was your client, how would you fix it?

Aug 08, 2017
Breaker breaker! Leah Culver on starting up a new podcast platform
35:50

Changing the podcast user experience: with Paul away, Rich is joined by Postlight’s new partner, Gina Trapani, for a conversation with developer Leah Culver. They discuss her career trajectory, from embracing computer science in college to moving Silicon Valley to founding startups Pownce and Convore to becoming an engineer at Dropbox. They then discuss her newest venture, Breaker, an “end-to-end podcast company,” and the podcast space in general, from the fractured digital spaces for podcast listeners to Apple’s recent announcement to share user data with creators.

Aug 01, 2017
The Social Dynamics of Legacy
40:07

 

Understanding an organization’s older technology systems: this week Paul and Rich discuss legacy software and the work cultures around them. Topics discussed include how companies put systems in place and how they become unworkable, resistance to change, clashes between engineering departments and broader company culture, and tips for dealing with the social dynamics when dealing with—and trying to change—legacy software and systems.

Jul 25, 2017
When Borders Collapse: Inside the World of Web Standards with Eric Meyer
42:12

The history and the future of CSS: this week Paul and Rich talk to Eric Meyer, an expert on HTML and CSS for more than two decades, about web design and standards. Touching on both basic and more technical aspects of CSS, topics covered include the development of the style sheet language, the incompatibility of early web browsers, accessibility (or lack thereof) in modern web design, and, of course, what the W3C CSS working group’s after-parties are like.

Jul 18, 2017
Rich and Paul on a Decade of Life in the Shadow of the iPhone
36:44

The iPhone at 10: this week Paul and Rich reflect on the iPhone’s 10-year anniversary, discussing everything from Steve Jobs to Apple’s evolution to the future of smartphones to how Jony Ive uses a microwave. Then they debut a new segment where they complain about things that frustrate them; this week, they get out all their feelings about kombucha, the always-broken Google Inbox, and Adobe’s Creative Cloud.

Jul 11, 2017
Jerome Hardaway is Bringing Vets to Tech
38:45

Helping veterans enter the tech world: this week Paul and Rich talk to Jerome Hardaway, a veteran who became a programmer before founding Vets Who Code, a nonprofit that helps other veterans do the same. They discuss the challenges he faced reentering civilian life at the height of the Great Recession, how Vets Who Code was born, the specific assets vets bring to programming and the tech world, and how they overcome the challenges and stereotypes they face.

Jul 04, 2017
Rich and Paul: Russian to Conclusions
36:43

From Amazon to Russian watches: this week Paul and Rich start by trying to rationalize Amazon’s recent acquisition of Whole Foods, a conversation summed up by Paul as, “You can Occam's Razor this bad boy down.” They move on to Amazon’s strategy at large, the departure of Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, whether our individual actions can ever have any broader effect on the planet, and the harrowing saga of the time Rich tried to buy a watch from a shady Russian website.

Jun 27, 2017
Maris Kreizman Wants to Mail You Books
40:16

Analog books in the digital age: this week Paul and Rich talk to Maris Kreizman, editorial director of Book of the Month Club, the 90-year-old book subscription service that shaped American literary history. Topics discussed include BOMC’s revival and current iteration, demographics and preferences in book consumption, materiality of paper books and physical bookshelves, Amazon’s relationship to the rest of the book world, and why Paul just can’t get behind mermaid fiction.

Jun 20, 2017
What We Chat About When We Chat About Chat
41:25

Chat, bots, privacy, and the internet of things: this week Paul and Rich embark on a wide-ranging conversation about innovation and change in tech—and its impact on our daily lives. Topics covered include connected devices, machine learning, the future of medical apps, technologies and superpowers, and whether it would be fun to go to a bar with Siri. (Spoiler: it wouldn’t.)

Jun 12, 2017
Alex Daly Can Kickstart Your Dreams
45:33

Understanding crowdfunding with “The Crowdsourceress”: this week Paul and Rich talk to Alex Daly, a Kickstarter expert whose company, Vann Alexandra, has managed 50 campaigns and raised more than $20 million dollars. They discuss her background and earliest introduction to crowdfunding, a number of memorable campaigns she’s run (for Neil Young, NASA, the MTA, and more), and tips and observations about building both an audience and a successful crowdfunding campaign.

Jun 06, 2017
Jen Dary Wants You To Pluck Up
40:31

Launching the employee development movement: this week Paul and Rich talk to Jen Dary, the founder of Plucky, “a consulting firm that helps companies with their people.” They discuss the value of retention over hiring, how to reframe thinking about career paths, Jen’s “employee development” approach to human resources challenges for both people and companies, and a pivotal conversation while stuck in traffic on the Verrazano Bridge.

May 30, 2017
Consider Yourself Notified
32:36

A user’s experience in a world of endless updates: this week Paul and Rich talk about the changes tech giants and digital publishers make on our mobile apps and on the web. Topics covered include our apps’ constant stream of small updates, user-experience disconnect on major social media platforms, publications’ redesigns and the ultimate aims of publishing on the web, and the lack of—and the need for—software criticism.

May 23, 2017
John Shankman Explains the Whole Ad Stack
47:45

Understanding advertising on the web: this week Paul and Rich talk to John Shankman, an internet advertising veteran who has worked at companies like Federated Media, Huffington Post, and The Awl Network. He currently runs Hashtag Labs, a company that helps make ad tech more manageable for independent publishers. The conversation runs through various types of advertising online, from programmatic to direct sales to premium networks, and tracks the life of a web ad for the Paul and Rich’s new school, “Ford University.”

May 16, 2017
Sic Transit Gloria: Talking About Tech and Transportation
33:43

From Uber to Mars to the New York City bus system: this week Paul and Rich talk about the highs and lows of tech industry’s relationship with transportation, where some apps dismantle industries and others knit cities together. The conversation includes Rich’s theories about tech billionaires and space travel, Paul’s paean to express busses and the MTA Bus Time API, and a segment in which Rich roleplays as Travis Kalanick—and Paul gets to tell the Uber CEO exactly how he feels.

May 09, 2017
Aaron Lammer Is Not Safe For Work
43:36

Product management, from journalism to music to podcasts. This week Paul and Rich talk to Aaron Lammer about the three prongs of his career—as the co-founder of Longform, as a musician with Francis and the Lights, and as the host of Stoner, a new podcast about weed. They look at his career through the lens of product management and entrepreneurship—and Aaron’s tendency to downplay success, like going on tour with Chance the Rapper.

May 02, 2017
Laurie Voss Helps Millions of Programmers
41:22

Managing the world’s largest software registry: this week Paul and Rich talk to Laurie Voss, chief operating officer of npm, the JavaScript package manager that gives 7 million programmers worldwide access to hundreds of thousands of packages. They discuss how npm works and the details of its past, present, and future—as well as how removing one tiny piece from it can break the entire internet. They also discuss managing a large community of users, where the 0.1%’s complaints always seem to outweigh the 99.9%’s praise.

Apr 25, 2017
“Oh, Just Innovation Things,” with Michael Shane
37:56

Digital innovation and collaboration: this week Paul and Rich sit down with Michael Shane, the Global Head of Digital Innovation for Bloomberg. They discuss his journey from professional clarinetist to applying for an editorial position on a whim to developing big and small ideas across platforms and divisions at Bloomberg. They then describe Bloomberg’s upcoming collaboration with Postlight Labs on a tool which integrates Bloomberg’s business context with news stories from any outlet.

Apr 18, 2017
Gina Trapani has things TODO.txt
47:17

Productivity at Postlight: this week, with Rich an ocean away, Paul is joined by Gina Trapani, a director of engineering at Postlight who is well-known for, amongst other things, founding the website Lifehacker. They discuss her productivity tool, TODO.txt, an open-source project now in the hands of Postlight’s team, and productivity tools at large, in a conversation ranging from the specifics of Paul’s favorite, org mode, to the way having children disrupts all your plans for organized, efficient workflows.

Apr 11, 2017
Internationally Relating With Jeremy Pam
39:36

Geopolitical design thinking: this week Paul and Rich talk to Jeremy Pam, an international relations expert whose career has taken him from Wall Street to Iraq and Afghanistan to MIT to his current position at Columbia University’s Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies. The conversation ranges from sovereign debt relief to New York subcultures to working in a warzone to the Homebrew Computer Club, and they draw parallels between the tech world and geopolitics—and how to reconcile with outcomes your data models never predicted.

Apr 04, 2017
Talking with Kim Stanley Robinson about his global warming epic, New York 2140
40:50

Imagining New York’s underwater future: this week Paul and Rich talk to Kim Stanley Robinson, one of the most renowned science fiction writers alive. The author of nineteen novels, he describes his newest, New York 2140, as both a “post-disaster novel” and a “comedy of coping,” set in a New York City several decades after sea levels have risen and stabilized. They discuss the city’s history, its natural and manmade spaces, and its inevitable future due to climate change: how the watery city will adapt, and who will make a profit.

Mar 28, 2017
John Battelle on Making Web Media Possible, and Profitable
54:39

The past, present, and future of advertising on the web: this week Paul and Rich talk to John Battelle, who’s been, in Paul’s words, “an internet entrepreneur as long as there’s been internet entrepreneurship to happen.” They chronicle his long and varied career, including early days as founding managing editor of Wired, founding Industry Standard during the dot-com boom, the Web 2.0 Summit, successive iterations of online advertising and content marketing, and his current work at NewCo Shift, where he’s working change the way tech leaders think about the industry.

Mar 21, 2017
Alan Burdick on the Nature of Time and the Terrors of Productivity
51:30

How do we measure and manage our lives? This week Paul and Rich talk to Alan Burdick, a staff writer and former senior editor at The New Yorker whose perpetual lateness led to Why Time Flies: A Mostly Scientific Investigation, a far-reaching and comprehensive exploration of time. They discuss productivity apps, our internal clocks, children’s perception of time, bullet journaling, and more.

Mar 14, 2017
Rich and Paul Discuss the Hidden Giants of the Internet
37:08

From Amazon Web Services to YouTube cake videos: this week Paul and Rich go on a journey into the depths of the web, from its infrastructure to its myriad communities. They start with the recent AWS outage that left sites large and small scrambling and somehow find their way to the well-compensated YouTubers, train enthusiasts, “gastro-pornography,” and relatability—including the aesthetics of “Track Changes” itself.

Mar 07, 2017
Tech at the ACLU: In practice, and in theory
52:58

The technologists defending the Constitution: this week Paul and Rich talk to two people with very different roles at the American Civil Liberties Union. Marco Carbone, Associate Director for Internet Technology, manages the ACLU’s website, while Daniel Kahn Gillmor, Senior Staff Technologist for the Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project, does policy-oriented work, especially on digital privacy rights. Topics covered include the recent influx of donations to the organization, poor security standards on our social media platforms, warrants, and more.

Feb 28, 2017
Lara Hogan on Engineering and Public Speaking
43:19

Demystifying public speaking: this week Paul and Rich talk to Lara Hogan, an engineering director at Etsy whose most recent book, Demystifying Public Speaking, aims to help get more diverse voices onstage in the tech world. Topics covered include overcoming specific fears before getting onstage, how to process feedback, and some of her own experiences onstage, from highlights on down to one particular public-speaking horror show. They also discuss her career at Etsy and the joys and challenges of management.

Feb 21, 2017
Ryan and Dan in a World of VICE (News)
44:22

From the front lines of the changing world of media: this week Paul and Rich talk to a client, VICE News, specifically editor Ryan McCarthy and general manager Dan Fletcher. They talk about VICE News and VICE more broadly, outline Dan and Ryan’s careers, and talk about the current media landscape and VICE’s position within it. They also discuss VICE News’s experiences with Postlight, who redesigned the site in 2016.

Feb 14, 2017
Should Twitter Delete @realDonaldTrump?
47:17

Should Twitter delete the president’s personal account? Paul and Rich tackled this hotly-debated question in the first-ever live episode of Track Changes, recorded at the SVA Theatre in Manhattan as part of IxDA’s Interaction 17 conference. They take turns playing the fictional CEO of Twitter as he visits various departments, from tech to legal to PR to investor relations to design, to talk about whether they could delete the account—and what the ramifications would be if they “hit the big red button.” They also take in a variety of perspectives on the question with comments from the audience.

Feb 07, 2017
Prashant Agarwal on Scaling Design
47:39

Why you need prototypes and Powerpoints: this week Paul and Rich talk to Prashant Agarwal, the VP of Design at McKinsey Digital Labs. They talk about his career trajectory, from studying business to co-founding a startup to product management to design, and his current role at McKinsey, where he rethinks design challenges at scale. Paul and Rich also discuss content marketing, including this podcast and their fear of small talk at cocktail parties.

Jan 31, 2017
Nicholas Carr on How Technology Becomes Creepy
46:41

The promise—and creepiness—of the web. This week Paul and Rich talk to Nicholas Carr, the author of books including The Shallows, The Glass Cage, and, most recently, Utopia Is Creepy. Topics covered include our addictions to devices, the internet’s influence on political discourse, shifting perceptions of digital technologies over time, and Rich’s desire to see less baked ziti on his Facebook feed.

Jan 24, 2017
The New, Big Media
29:33

How do our media landscapes shape our lives? This week Paul and Rich have a wide-ranging conversation about media, from the changing landscape of journalism to the way we consume entertainment to the way we share information. Topics covered include fake news, Netflix, Jeff Bezos, Facebook, television, Fox News, David Letterman, and Peppa Pig (which gives Paul a chance to test-drive a British accent).

Jan 17, 2017
Craig Mod on Great Design and Long Journeys—Part 2
49:13

Physically preserving the contents of the web: in the second and final installment of their conversation with Craig Mod, Paul and Rich talk to the writer, designer, and technologist about his new book and about the writing platform hi.co, the entire contents of which will be printed on a tiny nickel plate and archived in the Library of Congress. They also answer a listener question about Paul’s anxiety—or, in his words, “brain space shenanigans”—and whether the frequent subject of Paul’s writing has any bearing on Postlight’s business.

Jan 10, 2017
Craig Mod on Great Design and Long Journeys—Part 1
40:16

Traveling the world with Craig Mod: in the first of a two-part conversation, Paul and Rich talk to the writer, designer, and technologist about his upbringing, his early relationships with computers, and strategy tips for walking through forests. They also take a question from a listener worried over what to do when your values don’t align with the values of your client—or your employer.

Jan 03, 2017
Year in Review: 2016
36:41

What should we make of 2016? This week Paul and Rich recap the year, with a focus on the big tech trends of the past 12 months. Topics covered include virtual and, augmented reality, Pokémon GO, Facebook’s fake news problem, Apple’s terrible wireless headphones, self-driving cars, cybersecurity, conversational interfaces, Rich’s eternal optimism, Paul’s fears for the future, and the things they’re both grateful for.

Dec 27, 2016
Colin Smith Has a Plan to Help Hundreds of NYC Public Schools
38:44

Creating change for New York City kids: this week Paul and Rich split the episode in two, with two conversations about children and learning. First they talk about their own kids’ relationships with technology and feelings about teaching them to code. Then they sit down with Colin Smith, executive director of the nonprofit Change for Kids, which works with motivated principals to help give students at New York’s poorest public schools access to pathways for success.

Dec 20, 2016
Michael Sippey on Product Management—and Pivoting
48:26

Learning from successes and failures: this week Paul and Rich talk to Michael Sippey, whose career spans the history of the web, from blogging pioneer to Six Apart to director of product at Twitter to startup founder. He details his work at Twitter during a time of transition for the social network, and then shares frank perspectives about launching and recently shutting down his startup, Talkshow.

Dec 13, 2016
Q&A: Taking listener questions, and mission statements
34:27

Answering listener mail: this week Paul and Rich answer a few letters: first, an architect asks Rich to expand upon his analogy between small teams of software developers and architecture firms; then, a Facebook-weary listener asks why there isn’t an easy way to pull your content from the platform. They round out the show with a discussion on Postlight’s mission statement—or lack thereof. Also discussed: Shutterstock’s image search, consulting firms’ hiring models, and Rich’s opinion of the sushi in San Diego.

Dec 06, 2016
Introducing Postlight Labs
27:42

A new division of Postlight: this week Paul and Rich debut Postlight Labs, a recently-launched space for innovation and experimentation within the company. They discuss Labs’ inception and some of the thinking behind its mission, and then detail three products Poslight has launched already: the Mercury AMP tool, Lux, a JavaScript framework, and SOTU, a tool that helps managers check the status of a project on Slack.

Nov 29, 2016
Postlight at One
34:11

Taking stock after one year: this week Paul and Rich assess the company they founded last year and what they’ve learned in the intervening months. They detail Postlight’s origin story, talk about philosophies around hiring and building a diverse workplace, meditate on success and achievement at the management level, and critique things they could have done better—and what they’ll keep working to improve in the future.

Nov 22, 2016
Cathy O'Neil on “Weapons of Math Destruction”
47:43

Our dangerous reliance on big data: in an episode recorded before the election, Rich and Paul talk to Cathy O’Neil, author of Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy. They discuss Cathy’s origins in the math world, her years at a hedge fund on the brink of the 2008 financial crisis, the lack of transparency in the Department of Education’s data, and the various examples of “weapons of math destruction” in her book—all the ways that data is used to harm.

Nov 15, 2016
Put Your Phone Down
25:04

Are we addicted to our phones? This week Paul and Rich very deliberately avoid talking about the fate of our democracy and tackle perennial questions about our devices and our (possibly unhealthy) relationships with them, starting with Andrew Sullivan’s recent piece in New York Magazine, “I Used to Be a Human Being.” Topics covered include the essays of Montaigne, “play baseball dads” vs. “phone dads,” whether mobile software and design should take some blame, and the phrase “epistemological shenanigans.”

Nov 08, 2016
In the studio with Jeffrey Zeldman
40:22

The next step for Jeffrey Zeldman: this week Paul and Rich talk to the web design pioneer who, in Paul’s words, “designed the aesthetic of the web for a while.” They discuss his history as founder of the design studio Happy Cog and A List Apart Magazine, co-founder of A Book Apart and An Event Apart, and author of, amongst other titles, Taking Your Talent to the Web. They then discuss his newest venture, Studio.Zeldman, dig deep into the difference between an agency and a studio, and touch, controversially, on the pronunciation of “GIF.”

Nov 01, 2016
Tom Vanderbilt explains all of your choices
45:38

How does the web shape our taste—and our choices? This week Paul and Rich talk to Tom Vanderbilt, author of You May Also Like: Taste in an Age of Endless Choice. They examine how online ratings affect our perceptions, the power of negative reviews, and Tom and Rich’s shared appreciation (/love) for Rush. They also discuss Tom’s previous book, Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us), and how his research led him deep into the world of cycling.

Oct 25, 2016
101 Fifth Avenue
35:33

What can we learn from the history of an address? Fresh off Postlight’s recent move to offices at 101 Fifth Avenue, Paul and Rich use The New York Times’s archives to delve into the history of that particular parcel of land. Some of the results are dramatic (diamond thieves!), and some...well, not so much (dinner parties; book publishing). But what emerges is a narrative about a building that’s changed with the ebbs and flows of industry in New York City—and a narrative about New York City itself.

Oct 18, 2016
A Conversation with Michael Bierut and Jessica Helfand, Part Two
44:38

How does design shape the world? This week, Paul Ford and Rich Ziade finish their conversation with Michael Bierut, a partner at Pentagram, and Jessica Helfand, senior critic at the Yale School of Art. Topics discussed include the public’s perceptions of designers’ work, collective interest in logos and branding, the danger of creating in pursuit of positive feedback, publishing personal writing on the internet, and their recent appointments as the first design faculty in the Yale School of Management.

Oct 11, 2016
A Conversation with Michael Bierut and Jessica Helfand, Part One
39:29

How designers see the world: this week, Paul Ford and Rich Ziade talk to Michael Bierut, a partner at the design firm Pentagram, and Jessica Helfand, a senior critic at the Yale School of Art. In the first installment of a two-part conversation, they discuss the institutions where they’ve built their careers, the balance between expertise and curiosity, how they teach the fundamentals of design, and the value of rituals when you’re trying to get the work done.

Oct 04, 2016
Clover Newsletter—Turning over a new leaf (or four) with founders Liza Darwin and Casey Lewis
45:49

New media on old platforms: this week Paul and Rich talk to Liza Darwin and Casey Lewis, former teen magazine editors who launched “Clover,” a daily topical newsletter and app for girls ages 13-22, early this year. They discuss their former employers’ struggles adapt to the internet age, the email behavior of today’s teenagers, nostalgia for Google Reader, inadvertently building a community, and sexism in the venture capital world.

Sep 27, 2016
“See media for pic”—a conversation on emergency alerts
36:41

Terrorism and technology: this week Paul Ford and Rich Ziade talk about a host of topics in the wake of the past weekend’s bombing in Manhattan. They cover the state of the city and the collective reaction of its residents, the ease of international communication in the digital age, and the emergency alert that went out early Monday morning that named the suspected perpetrator and said simply, “See media for pic. Call 9-1-1 if seen.”

Sep 20, 2016
Brightcove, Big City—talking video with David Mendels
39:51

Our all-video future: this week Paul Ford and Rich Ziade talk to David Mendels, the CEO of the video-hosting platform Brightcove. They discuss video’s rise and current dominance on the web, esports, “snackable video,” Rich’s relationship with his cable bill, and Pokémon GO (“There’s, like, a Bulbasaur by our bathroom,” Paul says of Postlight’s offices. “That’s our recruiting strategy.”)

Sep 13, 2016
Who’s Gonna Drive You Home—Talking Self-Driving Cars
34:34

What does our self-driving future look like? This week Paul Ford and Rich Ziade cover, in Rich’s words, “Bluetooth headsets, my mother, and self-driving cars.” They start with a discussion on the shortcomings of video-conferencing systems; segue with a breakdown of Rich’s mother’s experiences with Uber; and wrap up with speculation about a world of self-driving cars (including a full breakdown of the distribution chain for what will surely come to fruition someday, Uber Baby Lamb).

Sep 06, 2016
Rational Geographic—Map Chat with Aaron Straup Cope
43:30

The history and the future of geotagging: this week Paul Ford and Rich Ziade talk to Aaron Straup Cope, a programmer who works with maps and geographical datasets. The conversation covers his time as one of Flickr’s earliest employees, data visualization, gazetteers, the evils of Walmart, geocoding (and reverse geocoding), and one of the most controversial decisions in online mapping—Google’s decision to cut off the poles and make the world a square.

Aug 30, 2016
Julia Pimsleur—Found in Translation
45:24

Helping women build million-dollar businesses: this week Paul and Rich talk to Julia Pimsleur, founder of the Little Pim foreign language-learning series and author of Million Dollar Women: The Essential Guide for Female Entrepreneurs Who Want to Go Big. They discuss her career trajectory, from documentary filmmaker to nonprofit fundraiser to entrepreneur, and talk about her experiences raising venture capital—and how the specific challenges for women in the VC world led her to start teaching other female entrepreneurs.

Aug 23, 2016
This Is Haughey Do It
44:47

The evolution of MetaFilter: this week Paul Ford and Rich Ziade talk to Matt Haughey, the founder of MetaFilter, the collection of sites and communities that Paul describes as “one of the real success stories of the web.” The conversation covers Matt’s early career at Pyra Labs, the accessibility of digital technologies, his current job as a writer for Slack, and how if you spend enough time publishing online, you’ll inevitably attract the attention of two groups — trolls and lawyers.

Aug 16, 2016
Elizabeth Spiers is Multi-dimensional
46:14

From digital journalism to virtual reality: this week, Paul Ford and Rich Ziade talk to Elizabeth Spiers, whom Paul describes as “both a human being and essentially a human media platform.” (Elizabeth scales the description back a bit with “digital media nerd.”) She chronicles her career, from founding editor of Gawker to “launch consultant” for digital products, and they discuss her brand-new company, The Insurrection, a research firm that specializes in VR.

Aug 09, 2016
Event Verizon
28:03

Verizon just bought Yahoo, but what exactly did they get? This week, Paul Ford and Rich Ziade discuss the acquisition of the beleaguered Yahoo, and mull over the long games of companies like Verizon, Google, Facebook, and Apple. They also consider the failed tech acquisitions of old, build the ideal media and tech conglomerate, and finally address the way Paul pronounces “Yahoo.”

Aug 02, 2016
The DNA of NDAs
34:59

Do we need so many NDAs? This week Paul Ford and Rich Ziade discuss the proliferation of the non-disclosure agreement in the tech world and beyond, and hammer out what’s really necessary in a business contract. They talk about verbal NDAs and frieNDAs, legalese, a dentist who gives great advice, Paul’s parking spot, and the time Rich sang the Google terms of service in the style of GWAR (yes, in front of other people). They also read and debate a listener’s letter on universal basic income.

Jul 26, 2016
Karen McGrane—Content and discontent
44:59

How does a content strategist see the web? This week Paul Ford and Rich Ziade talk to Karen McGrane, a user-experience expert who writes books, gives speeches, leads workshops, and takes on a variety of web projects with her agency Bond Art + Science. Topics covered include the bold fashions of the dot-com era (many buckles); nightmare pitch meetings involving handcuffs and action figures; introductory email etiquette; and Paul’s formal apology to the International Association for Pawn Shop Owners.

Jul 19, 2016
Mayer Lemons—a chat about Yahoo’s recent acquisitions
31:32

Marissa Mayer’s Yahoo acquisitions: this week Paul and Rich start the discussion with a recent Gizmodo article about the fate of all 53 companies Yahoo has purchased under Mayer’s leadership. Topics covered include acqui-hires, managing up vs managing down, Silicon Valley’s disdain for humans doing normal human things,  and Rich’s favorite Yahoo acquisition, Summly. They also float an alternate title for the episode: “Daddy Issues.”

Jul 12, 2016
Rex Sorgatz—the other side of Fate
45:55

Has the internet changed everything? This week Rich and Paul talk to writer and media strategist Rex Sorgatz, who wrote recently about returning to his small North Dakota hometown to see how (or if!) access to the world’s information has changed things there. Also discussed: the appeal of black trench coats to a certain demographic, Rex’s stint editing the nation’s oldest paranormal magazine, the time he had to reenact his apartment burning down during a flood on national television, and a charming email exchange between Paul and Rex a decade ago. (Brace yourselves: it’s about XML.)

Jul 05, 2016
The Silence of the Cams
37:46

Your silent Facebook feed: this week Paul and Rich talk about how video has taken over Facebook—and about how 85% of those videos are viewed silently. They debate form and content, consider user experience, and fixate on a fictional video in which an man drives a Vespa into a hole. They also discuss Rich’s mother’s cooking, and promise to have her on in a future episode.

Jun 28, 2016
Virginia Heffernan—Magic, Loss, and Mercy Killing Horses
53:11

Aesthetics and digital technology: this week Paul and Rich talk to writer Virginia Heffernan about her new book, Magic and Loss: The Internet as Art. The conversation covers Buddhism, Angry Birds, The 4-Hour Workweek, nuclear war, ancient philosophy, Bay Ridge, and wild horses. And like all the best technology podcasts, it includes both numerous references to Jony Ive and a good amount of Latin.

Jun 21, 2016
Paul and Rich exchange frank views
39:33

The media industry versus Silicon Valley: this week Paul and Rich set out to ostensibly talk about the ongoing saga of Gawker vs Hulk Hogan and Peter Thiel (recorded just days before the Gawker bankruptcy announcement). Instead, they find themselves debating about the ethics of media and business, free-market capitalism, surge pricing, universal basic income, the ethos of the Valley—and Rich promises Paul that he will never read The Fountainhead.

Jun 14, 2016
Khoi Vinh—from Subtraction to Adobe
38:42

Design and spotting talent from The New York Times to Adobe: this week Paul and Rich sit down with designer Khoi Vinh, who is currently the director of product design for mobile at Adobe. They trace his career from his early agency in New York to his years as design director of newyorktimes.com to his current work building mobile products for a software giant. They discuss everything from process to scaling to how to build a great design team.

Jun 07, 2016
Q&A
29:32

Google’s UX, tech in the classroom, and Spotify’s algorithms: this week Rich and Paul answer a host of listener questions and comments. Topics discussed include the abysmal UX of Google’s ad products, Amazon’s strategies for world domination, the digital technologies in today’s elementary schools, and what exactly Spotify’s Discover Weekly thinks of Paul and Rich. (“Guys. Really? Come on. Get out of my house.”)

May 31, 2016
Natalie Podrazik—iOS developer and user-research spy
42:12

What is it like to be an iOS programmer? This week Paul and Rich talk to Natalie Podrazik about, in Paul’s words, “the gestalt of iOS programming.” Natalie traces her journey from studying comp-sci to backend programming to developing for Apple devices, where the title “engineer” often encompasses design and user experience alongside writing code. Also discussed: what it’s like to go to WWDC, the glories of the MTA’s Bus Time, and the fact that Natalie has probably watched you play Candy Crush on the subway.

May 24, 2016
Meet Mercury, an automatic AMP engine for any website
33:59

What is the AMP format, and how will it affect publishers? This week Rich and Paul unveil Mercury, Postlight’s new AMP-conversion tool. As they break down Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages format, they talk about why they built Mercury—and how web publishers can use it. They also discuss the broader (dire) state of publishing on the web, from the introduction of mobile devices to Facebook’s Instant Articles.

May 18, 2016
Too Something? To Fail
32:37

How do you define success—or failure? This week, Paul and Rich tackle ideas about failure in business, the tech industry, and their lives. The result is part topical conversation (Apple, Yahoo, the penetrating gaze of Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes) and part therapy session. “I don’t know how to feel successful, personally,” Rich admits early on. Paul eventually matches him, announcing, “I think that everything I do and everything I touch is a failure.”

May 10, 2016
Gina Trapani—coder to lifehacker and back again
38:34

Programming and blogging for programmers: this week Paul and Rich talk with Gina Trapani, the founder of Lifehacker and one of their newest employees. Gina talks about her journey from coding to the technology and lifestyle blog Lifehacker—and about her decision to return to the programming fold. She also reveals why she took a job at Postlight. (spoiler: simpler tax forms!)

May 03, 2016
The Web Is Dead
37:07

Is the web dead? This week Paul and Rich eulogize the web, which has been dying since its inception. They compare the early, organic days of the web with today’s trends towards massive commercial centralization. They also talk about Outbrain and Taboola (“20 slides spread over 400 pages”), Disqus and Facebook comment threads, and the hellscape that is wish.com, leading Rich to declare, “Maybe the web sucks! Maybe it should die!”

Apr 26, 2016
Camille and Kellan are Friends (and CTOs)
41:28

What is it like to be a CTO? This week Paul and Rich talk to two former chief technology officers: Camille Fournier, who was previously at Rent the Runway, and Kellan Elliott-McCrea, who was previously at Etsy. They discuss the CTO’s role within a company, share experiences from the trenches, compare managing engineers versus managing CEOS, and swap stories about the most colossal technical outages that happened on their respective watches (Kellan took down Yahoo Messenger; Camille ruined everyone’s Thanksgiving).

Apr 19, 2016
Takin’ It Meta
33:12

Why is publishing on the web so fractured? This week Paul and Rich make a podcast about making a podcast—or more specifically, about the difficulties of publishing content on disparate platforms across the web. They discuss native advertising versus more traditional marketing, and Rich asks the important question: “I just need to know Paul Ford hasn’t whored himself out.” Plus they answer a few listener questions and talk about how to build a great team.

Apr 12, 2016
The Man Who Killed Clippy, Part 2
35:45

Microsoft Word and the legacy of Clippy: in the second of a two-part episode, Paul and Rich continue their conversation with Dean Hachamovitch, former corporate vice president for Internet Explorer at Microsoft. This time they spend a while making fun of Microsoft Word’s infamous Clippy—while discussing conversational interfaces, security and privacy, and the responsibilities of software. As Rich puts it, “I just want to congratulate everyone here for smoothly weaving Clippy into some NPR-ish conversation.”

Apr 05, 2016
The Man Who Killed Clippy, Part 1
31:47

Going deep inside Microsoft: in the first of a two-part episode, Paul and Rich talk to Dean Hachamovitch, the former corporate vice president for Internet Explorer at Microsoft. In this installment, they talk about what that job is like on day one, and how to motivate a large team working on a massive scale.

Mar 29, 2016
Add Me to Your Professional Network
36:10

Why is LinkedIn so unpleasant? This week Paul and Rich want to connect with you, as they tackle the messy hellscape that is LinkedIn. What makes the site so bad—and what, if anything, could make it better? And in the second half of the show, they break down design culture, and how it shapes the things that get built.

Mar 22, 2016
Anil Dash, Capitalist to Activist
38:11

Ethics and access on the web: in this week’s episode, Paul and Rich talk to entrepreneur-turned-activist Anil Dash about the early days of the web, access and inclusivity, and the ethical responsibilities of the people who build digital technologies. Plus they try to settle how much you should tip on a New York City cab ride—no matter what the interface.

Mar 15, 2016
Presidential web platforms ranked
26:38
What does your CMS say about your chances as a presidential candidate?
“The last couple election cycles, your typical Republican website looked like it was ten years older than it was, and was prepared by dogs.” –Paul Ford

But man, things have changed. This week we go deeeeep inside the source code of the presidential candidates’ websites and assess their web platforms. Which candidates have the best platforms, and which are phoning it in? 

Spoiler: “If you are an uninspiring political candidate that can’t really get people to vote for you, WordPress is your platform of choice.”

Mar 07, 2016
The FBI vs. Apple and Rich vs. Paul
48:32

The debate over security, privacy, and technology: this week’s episode starts with a battle between two titans, Apple vs. the FBI and/or Paul vs. Rich. Weighing in on the ongoing phone encryption saga, Rich sides with the government’s right to protect its citizens, and Paul trusts literally no one on earth. Then they discuss former Microsoft exec Steven Sinofsky’s piece on how hard it is to change product, and they wrap things up with a question from a listener about whether or not it’s worth learning to code in 2016.

Mar 01, 2016
Deep inside Facebook and Silicon Valley with Jon Lax
53:30

From a design firm in Toronto to Facebook and Silicon Valley: on the first-ever episode of Track Changes, Postlight founders Paul Ford and Rich Ziade introduce themselves and sit down with Jon Lax, director of product design at Facebook, to talk about his work and the culture of the Valley.

Feb 24, 2016