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).
Why is publishing on the web so fractured? This week Paul and Rich make a podcast about making a podcast—or more specifically, about the difficulties of publishing content on disparate platforms across the web. They discuss native advertising versus more traditional marketing, and Rich asks the important question: “I just need to know Paul Ford hasn’t whored himself out.” Plus they answer a few listener questions and talk about how to build a great team.
Microsoft Word and the legacy of Clippy: in the second of a two-part episode, Paul and Rich continue their conversation with Dean Hachamovitch, former corporate vice president for Internet Explorer at Microsoft. This time they spend a while making fun of Microsoft Word’s infamous Clippy—while discussing conversational interfaces, security and privacy, and the responsibilities of software. As Rich puts it, “I just want to congratulate everyone here for smoothly weaving Clippy into some NPR-ish conversation.”
Going deep inside Microsoft: in the first of a two-part episode, Paul and Rich talk to Dean Hachamovitch, the former corporate vice president for Internet Explorer at Microsoft. In this installment, they talk about what that job is like on day one, and how to motivate a large team working on a massive scale.
Why is LinkedIn so unpleasant? This week Paul and Rich want to connect with you, as they tackle the messy hellscape that is LinkedIn. What makes the site so bad—and what, if anything, could make it better? And in the second half of the show, they break down design culture, and how it shapes the things that get built.
Ethics and access on the web: in this week’s episode, Paul and Rich talk to entrepreneur-turned-activist Anil Dash about the early days of the web, access and inclusivity, and the ethical responsibilities of the people who build digital technologies. Plus they try to settle how much you should tip on a New York City cab ride—no matter what the interface.
What does your CMS say about your chances as a presidential candidate?
“The last couple election cycles, your typical Republican website looked like it was ten years older than it was, and was prepared by dogs.” –Paul Ford
But man, things have changed. This week we go deeeeep inside the source code of the presidential candidates’ websites and assess their web platforms. Which candidates have the best platforms, and which are phoning it in?
Spoiler: “If you are an uninspiring political candidate that can’t really get people to vote for you, WordPress is your platform of choice.”
The debate over security, privacy, and technology: this week’s episode starts with a battle between two titans, Apple vs. the FBI and/or Paul vs. Rich. Weighing in on the ongoing phone encryption saga, Rich sides with the government’s right to protect its citizens, and Paul trusts literally no one on earth. Then they discuss former Microsoft exec Steven Sinofsky’s piece on how hard it is to change product, and they wrap things up with a question from a listener about whether or not it’s worth learning to code in 2016.
From a design firm in Toronto to Facebook and Silicon Valley: on the first-ever episode of Track Changes, Postlight founders Paul Ford and Rich Ziade introduce themselves and sit down with Jon Lax, director of product design at Facebook, to talk about his work and the culture of the Valley.