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