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.
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.