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Track Changes

Technology and culture, hosted by the people of Postlight.
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Nov 13, 2018

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 6, 2018
 

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

 

 
 
 
Oct 30, 2018

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 23, 2018

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 16, 2018

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 9, 2018

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 2, 2018
 

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.

 

Sep 25, 2018

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?

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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 18, 2018
 

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 11, 2018

 

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 4, 2018

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.

 

Aug 28, 2018

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 21, 2018

 

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 14, 2018

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 7, 2018

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.

Jul 31, 2018

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 24, 2018
 

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 17, 2018
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 10, 2018

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 3, 2018

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.

Jun 26, 2018
 

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 19, 2018
 

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 12, 2018

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 5, 2018

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

May 29, 2018

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.

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