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.”
Has the internet changed everything? This week Rich and Paul talk to writer and media strategist Rex Sorgatz, who wrote recently about returning to his small North Dakota hometown to see how (or if!) access to the world’s information has changed things there. Also discussed: the appeal of black trench coats to a certain demographic, Rex’s stint editing the nation’s oldest paranormal magazine, the time he had to reenact his apartment burning down during a flood on national television, and a charming email exchange between Paul and Rex a decade ago. (Brace yourselves: it’s about XML.)
Your silent Facebook feed: this week Paul and Rich talk about how video has taken over Facebook—and about how 85% of those videos are viewed silently. They debate form and content, consider user experience, and fixate on a fictional video in which an man drives a Vespa into a hole. They also discuss Rich’s mother’s cooking, and promise to have her on in a future episode.
Aesthetics and digital technology: this week Paul and Rich talk to writer Virginia Heffernan about her new book, Magic and Loss: The Internet as Art. The conversation covers Buddhism, Angry Birds, The 4-Hour Workweek, nuclear war, ancient philosophy, Bay Ridge, and wild horses. And like all the best technology podcasts, it includes both numerous references to Jony Ive and a good amount of Latin.
The media industry versus Silicon Valley: this week Paul and Rich set out to ostensibly talk about the ongoing saga of Gawker vs Hulk Hogan and Peter Thiel (recorded just days before the Gawker bankruptcy announcement). Instead, they find themselves debating about the ethics of media and business, free-market capitalism, surge pricing, universal basic income, the ethos of the Valley—and Rich promises Paul that he will never read The Fountainhead.
Design and spotting talent from The New York Times to Adobe: this week Paul and Rich sit down with designer Khoi Vinh, who is currently the director of product design for mobile at Adobe. They trace his career from his early agency in New York to his years as design director of newyorktimes.com to his current work building mobile products for a software giant. They discuss everything from process to scaling to how to build a great design team.
Google’s UX, tech in the classroom, and Spotify’s algorithms: this week Rich and Paul answer a host of listener questions and comments. Topics discussed include the abysmal UX of Google’s ad products, Amazon’s strategies for world domination, the digital technologies in today’s elementary schools, and what exactly Spotify’s Discover Weekly thinks of Paul and Rich. (“Guys. Really? Come on. Get out of my house.”)
What is it like to be an iOS programmer? This week Paul and Rich talk to Natalie Podrazik about, in Paul’s words, “the gestalt of iOS programming.” Natalie traces her journey from studying comp-sci to backend programming to developing for Apple devices, where the title “engineer” often encompasses design and user experience alongside writing code. Also discussed: what it’s like to go to WWDC, the glories of the MTA’s Bus Time, and the fact that Natalie has probably watched you play Candy Crush on the subway.
What is the AMP format, and how will it affect publishers? This week Rich and Paul unveil Mercury, Postlight’s new AMP-conversion tool. As they break down Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages format, they talk about why they built Mercury—and how web publishers can use it. They also discuss the broader (dire) state of publishing on the web, from the introduction of mobile devices to Facebook’s Instant Articles.
How do you define success—or failure? This week, Paul and Rich tackle ideas about failure in business, the tech industry, and their lives. The result is part topical conversation (Apple, Yahoo, the penetrating gaze of Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes) and part therapy session. “I don’t know how to feel successful, personally,” Rich admits early on. Paul eventually matches him, announcing, “I think that everything I do and everything I touch is a failure.”
Programming and blogging for programmers: this week Paul and Rich talk with Gina Trapani, the founder of Lifehacker and one of their newest employees. Gina talks about her journey from coding to the technology and lifestyle blog Lifehacker—and about her decision to return to the programming fold. She also reveals why she took a job at Postlight. (spoiler: simpler tax forms!)
Is the web dead? This week Paul and Rich eulogize the web, which has been dying since its inception. They compare the early, organic days of the web with today’s trends towards massive commercial centralization. They also talk about Outbrain and Taboola (“20 slides spread over 400 pages”), Disqus and Facebook comment threads, and the hellscape that is wish.com, leading Rich to declare, “Maybe the web sucks! Maybe it should die!”
What is it like to be a CTO? This week Paul and Rich talk to two former chief technology officers: Camille Fournier, who was previously at Rent the Runway, and Kellan Elliott-McCrea, who was previously at Etsy. They discuss the CTO’s role within a company, share experiences from the trenches, compare managing engineers versus managing CEOS, and swap stories about the most colossal technical outages that happened on their respective watches (Kellan took down Yahoo Messenger; Camille ruined everyone’s Thanksgiving).