Understanding an organization’s older technology systems: this week Paul and Rich discuss legacy software and the work cultures around them. Topics discussed include how companies put systems in place and how they become unworkable, resistance to change, clashes between engineering departments and broader company culture, and tips for dealing with the social dynamics when dealing with—and trying to change—legacy software and systems.
The history and the future of CSS: this week Paul and Rich talk to Eric Meyer, an expert on HTML and CSS for more than two decades, about web design and standards. Touching on both basic and more technical aspects of CSS, topics covered include the development of the style sheet language, the incompatibility of early web browsers, accessibility (or lack thereof) in modern web design, and, of course, what the W3C CSS working group’s after-parties are like.
The iPhone at 10: this week Paul and Rich reflect on the iPhone’s 10-year anniversary, discussing everything from Steve Jobs to Apple’s evolution to the future of smartphones to how Jony Ive uses a microwave. Then they debut a new segment where they complain about things that frustrate them; this week, they get out all their feelings about kombucha, the always-broken Google Inbox, and Adobe’s Creative Cloud.
Helping veterans enter the tech world: this week Paul and Rich talk to Jerome Hardaway, a veteran who became a programmer before founding Vets Who Code, a nonprofit that helps other veterans do the same. They discuss the challenges he faced reentering civilian life at the height of the Great Recession, how Vets Who Code was born, the specific assets vets bring to programming and the tech world, and how they overcome the challenges and stereotypes they face.
From Amazon to Russian watches: this week Paul and Rich start by trying to rationalize Amazon’s recent acquisition of Whole Foods, a conversation summed up by Paul as, “You can Occam's Razor this bad boy down.” They move on to Amazon’s strategy at large, the departure of Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, whether our individual actions can ever have any broader effect on the planet, and the harrowing saga of the time Rich tried to buy a watch from a shady Russian website.
Analog books in the digital age: this week Paul and Rich talk to Maris Kreizman, editorial director of Book of the Month Club, the 90-year-old book subscription service that shaped American literary history. Topics discussed include BOMC’s revival and current iteration, demographics and preferences in book consumption, materiality of paper books and physical bookshelves, Amazon’s relationship to the rest of the book world, and why Paul just can’t get behind mermaid fiction.
Chat, bots, privacy, and the internet of things: this week Paul and Rich embark on a wide-ranging conversation about innovation and change in tech—and its impact on our daily lives. Topics covered include connected devices, machine learning, the future of medical apps, technologies and superpowers, and whether it would be fun to go to a bar with Siri. (Spoiler: it wouldn’t.)
Understanding crowdfunding with “The Crowdsourceress”: this week Paul and Rich talk to Alex Daly, a Kickstarter expert whose company, Vann Alexandra, has managed 50 campaigns and raised more than $20 million dollars. They discuss her background and earliest introduction to crowdfunding, a number of memorable campaigns she’s run (for Neil Young, NASA, the MTA, and more), and tips and observations about building both an audience and a successful crowdfunding campaign.
Launching the employee development movement: this week Paul and Rich talk to Jen Dary, the founder of Plucky, “a consulting firm that helps companies with their people.” They discuss the value of retention over hiring, how to reframe thinking about career paths, Jen’s “employee development” approach to human resources challenges for both people and companies, and a pivotal conversation while stuck in traffic on the Verrazano Bridge.
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.