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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.”)
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.”