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!).
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!)
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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?
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!
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!
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.
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?
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!
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.
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?
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!).
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/
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.”
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!
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.
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?
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.