We’re trapped: Are your digital possessions scattered across multiple platforms? Do you know how to find your photos? Are you locked into apps you barely enjoy? This week Paul Ford and Rich Ziade sit down to talk to about a major problem with giant platforms — getting stuck with them.
Paul Ford I have to pause and tell people about the most amazing thing that you ever said, which is there’s a store called Pearl River [RZ laughs] which is like a, kind of —
Rich Ziade KMart.
PF Yeah, but not even, it’s more just like, like stuff. Like just if you need a, a dollar hat, or a —
RZ This is a tangent. But go.
PF [Laughing] So we’re walking by on the way to a pretty big meeting [yeah]. Like we’re — it’s like, it’s like nine in the morning [mm hmm] and we gotta get in there, we have to really sell hard [mm hmm]. We’re walking on our way to the big, big company where we’re gonna pitch, and Rich just turns to me and goes, “I’m hungry. Let’s go into Pearl River” [RZ begins to laugh]. This is like saying, “I’m hungry, let’s go into — ”
RZ Ace Hardware.
PF Ace Hardware [RZ laughs] and you grabbed [laughing] something that looked like, it was just like banana nubbins.
RZ It was heinous. There were like these tiny teddy bears, filled with, I guess, chocolate, and the outside of them were flavored with banana.
PF “I’m hungry!”
RZ They were awful.
PF “I’m hungry!”
RZ They were criminal.
PF “Let’s go into Pearl River.”
RZ Criminal, criminal.
PF Yeah, “I wanna dance, let’s go to IKEA!” [Laughter, music fades in.]
RZ [Music continues, ramps down] So [sighs] my sister uh found my YouTube account. Now, I have a very special kind of YouTube — well it’s not special. All the videos are marked as private. I didn’t know — this is years ago [music fades out], five, six years ago. I had a little boy, baby boy. Uh didn’t know where to put the videos, I figured YouTube, give YouTube links out to people.
PF Yeah but you can do that like semi-private thing. Where it’s like —
RZ I flagged them all as ‘private’.
PF But they need the link.
RZ That’s right. So she starts messaging me links, of stuff I haven’t seen in years, and I forgot that I put it on YouTube.
RZ Ok. Which got me thinking, “Ok, where is my stuff?”
PF Oh, yeah. I’ve been thinking this too, actually.
RZ So, I hit the YouTube channel cuz it’s mine. Uh and there’s about 12 videos in there. So not a lot in there. So I’m like, “Where’s the rest of the stuff?”
PF Oh cuz you’ve got all these pictures of your kids like in the tub.
RZ Got all these pictures of my kids and back then I had like a nice digital camera. And it turns out they were all on Flickr.
PF Oh, man. God help you.
RZ So you’ve got a bunch of stuff on Flickr, right? God help me. I had Flickr Pro cuz I needed the storage.
PF You have no idea how to login to that, do you?
RZ I had to go through the process, a guy from Yahoo showed up at my house [PF laughs], said, “Rich, is that you?”
PF It’s a journey.
RZ It’s a journey. So I get back into Flickr and I come to realize another thing, which is that Flickr has 2012 to 2015 [mm hmm] and then it stops. All of a sudden it stops. And iPhoto picks it up. I stopped using my camera. The camera got really good on the phone, and I start using iPhoto. So now I’m thinking, “Alright, so I’ve got some on YouTube.” [Mm hmm] At one point I just — for some reason they were all on an external hard drive and I was like, “I should put them on DropBox.” So there’s like a thousand pictures on DropBox, I don’t know why.
PF Right right.
RZ I want it all in one place! I just bought a — an external SSD which is so hot. It’s like tiny.
PF I know they’re really good, aren’t they?
RZ They’re so sexy looking.
PF That’s so funn — let’s take a pause for one second just to talk about how great it is to live in the future, that way [yeah]. Where you’re like, “Hmm, I need four terabytes of storage,” and then you go to Best Buy and it’s like a dollar [RZ laughs]. It’s so satisfying.
RZ I just go to Amazon.
PF No, I mean that’s the right way.
RZ It’s like replacement shoelaces and four terabytes.
PF But if you were like — if I need 20 terabytes. I have like 30 terabytes sittin’ around at home now [right]. I just love it.
RZ Yeah well love’s a strong word but —
PF Uh I know but it’s just infinite space for your stuff!
RZ I want it all —
PF You know what’s terrible though? Is that external hard drive, the stuff that piles up on that one external hard drive where you’re like —
RZ Ah I’ve got some —
PF Just sorta like, “Uh I shouldn’t have sav — ” I have all like my client files from 20 years ago.
RZ Ah it’s bad: contracts and —
PF And then you’re like, “Ah I wanna watch The Wire again!” And somehow [RZ laughs] that’s in there and that’s like 30 gigs.
“I want all my shit in one place… and it turns out, it’s hard.”
RZ Yeah. Alright. So. I want my shit in one place and it turns out it’s hard.
PF I think maybe they just added the feature recently where you could finally get your stuff out of Flickr.
RZ Alright so, check that box [ok], getting my stuff out of Flickr. The files are named like DCIM or whatever. It’s a mess.
PF I think it’s like Digital Camera Image Media or something, yeah.
RZ Meanwhile I just want it to say “AnthonySnacking.jpg”.
PF It doesn’t say that. That’s a long stretch.
RZ Yeah, that’s a long stretch. So I got this pile of images, got those down off of Flickr. I haven’t done this yet but, hypothetically [mm hmm]. And then we move onto iCloud [mm hmm] and here we go: I can’t get ’em off! I can open them in the photos app on my Mac, I think, and then drag them off of it.
PF Yeah, you can’t. Ok. So — this just turned into tips and tricks.
RZ In iCloud.
PF No. Oh in iCloud but I mean it’s probably connected to iPhot — oh yeah, it might not be able to — oh boy, [I don’t know, look — ] that’s a pickle.
RZ If you search “how do I get my photos off iCloud” there’s gonna be advice out there [yeah]. It ain’t good.
PF No, it’s a pain.
RZ It’s bad. It’s really bad. And part of the reason it’s bad is lock in and I don’t mean to be a conspiracy theorist here but —
PF Let’s explain what lock in is.
“The more lock-in [technology companies get], the better they’re doing. The more their stock prices go up, the more people like and respect them.”
PF Alright so you got a big ol’ platform that lets people put their photos onto the internet [correct]. Right? That’s your — and it’s Apple [yeah]. And people are like, “Great! I like Apple! And I got an iPhone and it made it really easy, I can just hit a button and all my photos go into the iCloud [mm hmm] and if I’m logged into iCloud, I can share photos. This is cool. I like this.” And then a couple years go by and there’s a new thing, it’s called — there’s a new company called Peach and you get like a Peach phone, and you’re like, “Ah, I want those photos on here,” and then suddenly it’s really hard [it’s really hard]. Cuz it’s not Apple [exactly]. And what happened there is that Apple didn’t — it didn’t even do anything really particularly nefarious, it’s just you entered into a relationship without thinking about . . . how that relationship was gonna end, which we all do as humans. We all enter into relationships where we’re not — you know, we’re optimistic creatures. And so you got in there with Apple and you just assumed, “Hey, it’s gonna work forever.” And there’s probably some way, there’s usually a way to download stuff but they never make it particularly easy. And uh and so you’re just caught, you’re locked in . . . to that relationship and this is actually seen as a tremendous advantage to technology companies. The more lock in they get, the better they’re doing, the more their stock price goes up, the more people like and respect them.
RZ It’s convenient. It’s sold as . . . convenience, right? Um, now here’s the thing: this is real money. This is like I get a bill every month, 2.99 from Apple. I’m like, “Oh cool. I paid 11,000 dollars for the phone. They want three dollars. They can have three dollars.” [Yeah] Do you know uh Apple’s Q4 2017? The last quarter’s revenue just off of uh iCloud services? Eight and a half billion dollars. Now here’s the thing: up six point three billion from a year ago, ok? [Mm hmm] So this isn’t Apple just doing us a favour, there is big, big money here around subscription.
PF Yeah once you get into the capital to be billions, they pay attention, they care.
RZ It’s real and Apple is the biggest company in the world, so in their world it’s not huge but it’s a big deal.
PF No, eight billion dollars is still a pretty big deal! Even for the biggest company in the world.
RZ That’s right. That’s exactly right. So . . . I can’t get ’em into one place and, you know, the transparency there and the help there, you ever try to unsubscribe from a recurring subscription application on iPhone?
PF I’ve been paying for Hu — well, no, I’ve been — yeah . . .
RZ You’ve been paying paying for Hulu for what? 11 years?
PF I know. I’ve been paying for Hulu since before it existed.
RZ You can’t unsubscribe from Hulu.
PF I have done it on PayPal. I don’t even know how to get — I —
RZ You have to go there! You have to go to their headquarters, knock on the door, and say, “Listen, I don’t want this anymore.”
PF There’s like two programmers in there [RZ chuckles], saying, “Yeah, sorry.” Tell them about their Roku app.
RZ Lemme flip the flag.
PF Yeah, no, I mean that’s — yes, once they get that recurring revenue, boy do they try to hold onto it.
RZ It ain’t — it ain’t pretty, right?
PF No it’s not as bad as it used to be in the days of like AOL where you’d call and be like, “I need to cancel my service.” And they’d say, “Hold on! Transferring!” And then four hours — there is a point where people would record AOL and like put it on the internet [yeah yeah] cuz it was so incredibly bad.
RZ Paul, for our younger listeners: what is AOL?
PF You used to have to call — actually the younger listeners know: you used to have to call on the phone into uh an ISP. AOL was how your parents got connected to the internet [correct], possibly how they met and conceived you [laughing] is also what AOL is.
RZ [Laughs] So wait, uh, do — this is a fact: AOL, to this day, earns tens of millions of dollars on subscriptions that are probably sitting there, at the very bottom of people’s American Express —
PF Perfect example of lock in, right?
RZ — bills.
PF Like it’s — I’ve been paying my AOL, the boss has been paying me AOL at Home because he used it to get his corporate email and this was like seven years ago and nobody turned it off.
RZ Nobody turned — and there’s a lot of money —
PF There’s a lot of money still flowing. Yeah.
RZ — still flowing.
PF Now AOL has reinvented itself, it is now the Huffington Post, uh it’s part of Verizon, you know, it’s got all these media properties, it um Verizon also owns Yahoo. So I mean there’s like —
RZ There’s a whole —
PF There’s a whole world [web] in there now but yeah, no, there’s still bottomline revenue from people paying from monthly subscriptions to gain access to AOL.
RZ And . . . it’s like gym memberships. Many people are not logging into AOL [that’s right]. It’s just sitting there getting paid. It’s like, “I haven’t been to the job in four months but that’s the business model.”
PF These are weird jobs too, right? Like, can you imagine? You can get — you can go probably get a job working on subscriber services for AOL.
RZ Oh yeah! It’s a real thing [that’s it]. It’s a business [it is]. It’s a profitable business. In fact, incredibly profitable.
PF So look, lemme — let’s get to the chase here: what’s the big problem? What are we talking about?
RZ I have a cousin, in San Diego [uh huh] and he was digging through his mom’s, my aunt’s, old photos and started taking pictures of them with his phone [phone, sure, sure] and sending them on chat. And just the idea that the — not just these physical — this is a physical thing, they’re actual photos. But that the sort of experiences and memories tied to them are embedded in that data [right] and that data is embedded in a service and that service is tied to a subscription that is tied to probably the phone you own [right]. To this — like today it’s probably the phone you own. It used to be: what do you want us — like DropBox still has to sell you DropBox [mm hmm], it’s not tethered to a piece of hardware. Now when you get the phone, you get the service.
“It strikes me as sort of hilarious because everyone in Silicon Valley is like ‘disrupt, disrupt, disrupt’, but there is nine levels of middle men here, all owned by one or two companies. And you can’t wedge in there.”
PF When I switched to Pixel, it was just sort of like, “Hey, do you want this access, you know?” [Yeah] “If you upload your photos in a certain resolution you can — ” You know, I get unlimited storage until x, y, z. There’s just such a no-brainer [exactly!], “Yeah, alright, fine, fine.”
RZ Right, exactly, so —
PF Now here’s what’s interesting, right? Here’s these giant — this is like a very legacy idea, that you have this kind of integrated lock in for everybody [mm hmm] and so it always strikes me as sort of hilarious because everybody out in Silicon Valley is like, “Disrupt, disrupt, disrupt.” But the real — like there’s nine levels of middlemen here all owned by one or two companies.
RZ Yeah, yeah. Centralization. I mean that’s —
PF And you can’t wedge in there!
PF Apple owns that relationship all the way to the hard drive and the Cloud from the photons that go into your little camera lens [yup]. They’re gonna manage that thing all the way there [that’s right] for as long as they possibly can, and they’ll make it possible to get your stuff out of there. They’ll make it feasible cuz they don’t want a lot of drama online.
RZ They don’t want a lot of drama. It’s doable.
PF What you want is that one —
RZ My mom ain’t gettin’ those photos off of iCloud!
PF No, that’s right. What you want is that one document that is like on the helpdesk somewhere, where people are like, “I’m so tired of all this lock in in these giant companies.” [Yeah, yeah] You could say like, “No, we have a completely transparent download policy. Just go to apple.comxv549702 —
RZ Right, somebody’s doin’ it right. And it’s one of the monsters.
PF [Sighs] This is what’s tricky for me, right? Google does a lot of good and a lot of bad in the world because it’s so big that everything it does has an effect. But I got a Pixel 2 phone and, I gotta say, the Google Photos experience is the [chuckling] greatest damn thing that’s happened in my life. And I feel that I yell and scream about giant platform inhibiting the flow of human communication so often, that I should also kinda acknowledge when they get it right. And they nailed it.
RZ Oh, you’re full of shit.
PF Fine, whatever. But here’s what happens —
RZ Well, I am too! We all use ’em. Chris Dixon just wrote a post about centralized platforms [yeah but I could never get — ] on a centralized platform.
PF I could never get a — oh on like Medium?
PF Oh yeah. I could never get into iCloud, I could never like — I pay the 2.99 a month, I have no idea where it goes or how to turn it off.
RZ No, no, no, no. You can’t turn it off.
PF I don’t know where the photos are. I have like [music fades in] 10,000 photos in there.
RZ In iPhoto?
PF Probably, I don’t know. I’ve never looked.
RZ Yeah [music ramps up].
PF Hold on a minute [music fades out], Rich, lemme cut in here real quick, so we can tell people about Postlight.
RZ We’re a platform studio.
PF That’s right.
RZ I saw this quoted in Wired magazine.
PF Mm that’s true.
RZ We are a platform shop.
PF We build platforms, we build the big, transactional platforms.
RZ We should have a whole podcast, and we will! About the word “platform”.
PF Yeah, we really should.
RZ That’s worth an entire podcast.
PF Yeah, that is a pickle. That word.
RZ What it means is: you can build things on top of it.
PF Yeah that’s right: products.
RZ And — products! You can build services on top of it. You can do all kinds of stuff on top of it and we go all the way from the very tippity top where you have that beautiful coat of paint where people touch and play with things and interface all the way down into the machinery and the gears that make the thing run.
PF So —
RZ So that’s Postlight. How’s that for a description, Paul?
PF Pretty good, I liked that —
RZ That was like F. Scott Fitzgerald.
PF I’m gonna pull that outta the transcript and just start making it my email sig.
RZ [Chuckles] Talk to us!
PF Alright, so let’s talk about platforms again [music fades in], because we’re talking about platforms that we didn’t build. Big ones! Like Apple and Google, ok? [Music ramps up momentarily and fades out] Here’s what Google Photos nailed: I have this folder with like I took all my Apple files and I moved stuff into LightRoom, it’s sorta like you but a different version. But I just, I did have stuff on my hard drives, that was the only difference: I kinda had all my photos floating around on a couple different hard drives [mm hmm] and I was really paranoid cuz there’s pictures of the kids but they’re not really well backed-up [right]. They were in DropBox and my — photos are big. They’re just big enough to be a pain in the ass. And they’re not quite big enough for it to like —
RZ They got bigger and bigger.
PF Yeah and see video used to be like, “Ah man, I’m gonna need a couple extra hard drives to hold all this video.” And so you’re kinda used to finding a place for video but photos are like a little casual. And so they end up — you put ’em in your DropBox, and my DropBox filled up, then do I have these like secret —
RZ DropBox wants them so bad, too.
PF Well, it did. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
RZ Photo functionality now —
PF It’ll absorb your photos. That’s a great lock in framework for them.
RZ Well everybody’s trying to do this, right? That’s how you keep ‘em.
PF But I had this one folder with like 25,000 images in it and I just picked it up and dropped into my web browser. Like just drag and drop.
RZ How many?
PF Like 25,000.
RZ Ok there was a day when you dragged that much into your web browser, your web browser locked up.
PF Well this alone a thing, right? Like the fact that you can drag files but also like gigabytes and gigabytes, and it setup a little progress bar in the bottom left, I’m on photos.google.com and it just ate em all up.
RZ That’s incredible.
PF Just gobble, gobble, gobble and then they were like, at the end, they were like, “K, there’s four files we couldn’t import.” And I’m just like, “Four out of 25,000.”
RZ Pretty good ratio.
PF That’s great ratio. And . . . the experience is fantastic! I’m going in there finding pictures of my kids, it makes animated GIFs out of them, it’s very casual. It doesn’t feel um — you know what I would say? Is Apple always is like, “Aren’t you lucky to live a lifestyle that lets you use Apple products?” And Google is just like, “Here! Go ahead. We did it for you. I hope you like it.” [Laughing] “We have so much money, it doesn’t really matter anyway.” [Yeah] Google overall experience, like Google Takeout lets you download all your stuff.
RZ Tell everyone what Google Takeout is.
PF Google Takeout is — you should go to it so you can tell people about it. Google Takeout is uh you login with your Google account and it’s like, “Hey, do you want all your email? Here it is. You want your contacts? Here they are.” And they’re all in formats that aren’t too wild. Like your email comes in an inbox and your contacts come in comma separated values, meaning that they can kind of relatively easily be imported into other platforms [yeah]. It’s the opposite of lock in. It’s like a well-structured tool that lets you download all that stuff, it’s not fussy about how big it is —
RZ Gigs, right?
PF I’ve got 20 gigs of email, I can go download ’em once a day. They don’t care [yeah]. And there’s [sigh] you know it’s —
RZ You gotta call it for what it is, right? They don’t have to do this. They could be a real pain in the ass about it and they did it and — and [well they could also be — ] it’s probably a group of people [they could be more selective, right?], probably a product manager.
PF Like I pay for my email. Like they could be like, “Hey, you pay for your email, you get these things. Bah bah bah.” [Right] But they’re just not that big a pain about it. They’re like, “Alright you want your data? Get your data.” [Right] And the reality is that Google makes it easier to opt out of their ecosystem than most companies do.
“These big platform companies love to lock you in. It’s absolutely in their best interest.”
PF Today. Yeah. So much of their money is just online advertising.
RZ Exactly. I think this is ancillary for them [right]. I think this is ancillary. Like the Google Pixel is just them making a statement. It’s like an op ed.
PF Well, it’s not that. It’s them saying, “This is — yeah. This is what a good quality experience could look like on top of this Android environment.”
RZ Right, “Now Samsung and everybody, go do it.”
PF Well and also what they’re saying is, “Go ahead and say, ‘Ok Google,’ and we’ll, you know, you can do some searching and then there’ll be some ads, and there’ll be some experiences when you experience [yeah] these Google products.” So [right] it’s their entryway. They wanna prove that they can be really good because then they can justify all the ads that they need to sell [right]. Right? But it is wild. It’s wild to have to turn my brain around that way because it’s very unusual to see it coming and just go like, “Fine, here, here’s the right thing. Go.” [Yeah] “Have fun.” [Yeah] Like when Microsoft — at one point, Microsoft was like, “Hey, no, we’re — we’re, you know, we’re cool. We’re — we’re the standard. We use our office products and it’s good. We can share it.” And they created like their whole own version — there was a thing called um it was like Open Office XML and then they created like Open XML, like I mean it was —
RZ Oh my god. Well, here’s a cool trick: open a docx [PF laughs yeah] in like a text editor [yeah]. It is . . .
PF Well first it’s actually a zip file, you can unzip it and look inside and it’s a bunch of xml files and stuff.
RZ It’s a bunch of xml files and —
PF But it’s crazy!
RZ It’s — it’s insanity.
PF It’s crazy cakes in there.
RZ It’s insanity.
PF Yeah. I mean so these big platform companies love to lock you in. It’s absolutely in their best interest.
RZ It’s just — what do you call that doll that’s inside a doll that’s inside a doll that’s inside a —
PF The — I don’t know.
RZ It’s like that, right? To get to the thing, it’s inside a thing which is inside a thing. Do you remember when they decided to send something into space that would like — would be sort of a baseline way of communicating what our culture was?
PF Oh it was Voyager. Voyager 1!
RZ Where they put like — what did they put in there?
PF They put a gold —
RZ They put Chuck Berry’s like LP.
PF [Laughing] Yeah they put an actual — it’s like on gold, like the material gold album [RZ laughs] with you know a little bit of Beethoven, and a little bit of Chuck Berry [right!] and then pictures of naked men and women [RZ laughs] and um uh and like just like a little bit of information. Of course now you just throw a couple of USB drives in there, some SD —
RZ Well, I mean what they’re saying — I mean think about that puzzle! It’s incredibly hard, which is, “Let’s assume that the beings in outer space have the um auditory and optic . . . capabilities to absorb whatever’s — and know how to use them! Right?” It’s not a bell.
PF Yeah, no, I mean we’re —
RZ Like you need the record player.
PF I mean we’re assuming they’ll figure it out. Or they might just have sex with the probe. That could happen too [RZ laughs] and they’re just like —
RZ Clay Shirky wrote an article, years ago. Clay Shirky is a technology thinker. Uh about how um the requirements to getting to the thing continue to go up.
PF Oh, it’s so hard.
RZ It like — a piece of paper with words on it, uh if you — if you don’t know the language, you’re already halfway there. Like there’s symbols and there’s letters and whatnot. So you’re kind there. At least you have the thing and it’s able to be taken in by your eyes [mm hmm] right? And then he started to draw out what’s happening over time, meaning the requirements to get to the thing —
PF Well right, paper was a bunch of symbols — so you figure out — you know with ink. And you figure out what the symbols mean and then you can read . . .
RZ Right and ink can deteriorate [yeah]. It can burn, you can burn the paper.
PF But still like if you can see the paper, you can understand what’s going on.
RZ At least you can understand that there’s something going on.
PF Especially if there’s a picture.
RZ Right. So like fast forward — actually, no. Let’s blow up the earth [ok]. A meteor hits hah! The world ends. Uh what’s — what like comes up after like ten million years? Like algae or something [yeah, sure] and then we become lizards, and then it’s lizards, and then it’s like this whole other creature [starting all over, starting all over]. And they dig [yeah], and they dig and instead of getting drawings on the cave, like we got, they get a Western Digital [laughing] 500 gigabyte box.
PF Right. So first you gotta figure out the firmware.
RZ [Laughing] So they’re gonna say, “Look at this prior civilization.”
PF Yeah which is at point just a hunk of rust —
RZ They used to eat boxes [laughs].
PF Yeah, it’s just a hunk of rust. Right? Just rust.
RZ They’re seeing these words, it’s Western Digital, it’s Seagates in there [yeah] [laughing], got all these different brands are buried in the soil.
PF That’s right when they find the data center.
RZ So I mean if you really process what it’s gonna take to actually pull the information off of that thing — When we discovered the cave drawings, we were like, “Holy shit. Cave drawings.” [Yeah] “They drew a guy [we have no idea what they mean] and a tiger and a shovel.” [Yeah] Right? So that’s something! We could take in something. When somebody finds that Western Digital . . . what are you gonna do with that?! . . . You put it in some shitty museum in France, and that’s the end of that.
PF Well there won’t be a France.
RZ Oh true [laughs].
PF Anyway, let’s leave that one open. Alright, so —
RZ Google’s doing it right! Lock in’s scary. Own your shit.
PF But it’s trickier than that, like you’re locked in to all sorts of things and you don’t know about it. You’re locked into American Express right now.
RZ Oh yeah yeah yeah. Amazon? [Ah!] Amazon! I say, “Good morning,” to Amazon every morning before I say, “Good morning,” to my kids.
PF It’s really one of the best rela — I just got a refund from Amazon. It was one of the nicer — they were just like, “Of course, let’s give you that 80 dollars back.”
RZ Ah I got, dude, I have a friend who’s boycotting Amazon because they — it’s killing small shops.
PF [Sadly] Oh I know.
RZ And I get it but just Prime is so good, like within a day [PF sighs] I get what I need. I get it immediately.
PF Let me tell you something: I wish it was different in this world. But I don’t know how else to be.
RZ [Laughs] We are locked in everywhere, dude.
PF I don’t know how else — I cannot tend to my children and run a business and then worry about ordering things from Amazon. And I wish I could. I wish I could like process the damage I’m doing in the world by participating in these things but I just gotta keep moving right now.
RZ Google’s doing it right. Amazon is feeding our souls. Own your shit.
PF [Exhales sharply] You just gotta make peace with your giant platforms right now and then figure out the world you wanna build.
PF Alright it’s time for the segment where we talk about the things that irritate Rich. It’s called Can I Tell You.
RZ Can I tell you? [PF laughs boisterously] There’s this app, and there are many of them, so I’m not gonna — I’m not gonna shit on this one app [ok] where you gain control of your life [ok]. One of the screenshots in the App Store is “Regain control of your life.” And this was a calorie counting app.
PF I’ve used all of ‘em.
RZ [Laughing] Ok. So I get on this app, right? And it’s amazing, actually, the database of stuff that’s in it: they’ve got all the fast food restaurants, all the typical dishes, every fruit and vegetable —
PF You know a lot of that information is actually provided by the National Institute of Health?
RZ Ok this is me complaining right now [ok]. Your little tidbits don’t help —
PF I’m trying to give people facts.
RZ Alright. So I did it and it was like, “Ok, how old are you? How tall are you? —
PF K, you’re like 95 years old
RZ “What do you weigh?” And it’s like, “Ok well what do you wanna be?” And listen to me: for one, my phone is asking me —
PF “What do you wanna be?”
RZ What do I wanna be. And not just like, “What do you wanna be when you grow up?” [Yeah] It’s, “Where do you wanna go?” In this little piece of shit box [health wise] in my hand [your iPhone X] and it has that kind of cheery, they’ve got that line art —
PF Oh yeah, yeah, yeah, that’ll piss you off.
RZ The line art drawing where the guy who’s like on the top of the mountain with the [oh yeah], what do you call it? A telescope?
PF And it’s like four pastel colors.
RZ It’s in like four pastel colors and his head’s a little big. [Laughing] And he’s telling me: “What are you looking to achieve?” And so I start this thing —
PF You know what? And it’s like going to Burger King and they go like, “Hey, what do you wanna do with your life?” Like that’s my —
RZ It’s a slogan!
PF — the phone is — my phone is an object [yeah, yeah]. It doesn’t need to ask me profound questions.
RZ Well, let’s face it, man: it is a deep relationship between you and that phone. So that phone has every right to ask you, “What’s wrong with you?” And “Where do you wanna go?” Because, you know, that phone, it’s really got its shit together [I’ll tell you what though — ], it has perfect weight and height and the screen resolution, I can’t see the pixels anymore.
PF I know but I got the Pixel 2, it just doesn’t feel that anxious. I don’t feel that anymore . . . with my phone.
RZ So I eat an egg in the morning and I’m punching it in —
PF Yeah, oh that’s not good.
RZ — and I eat — I eat like two pieces of five grain, seven grain toast or whatever and I punch it in. So I’m punching stuff in [enjoy the toast!] and this is what pisses me off: I get a little spinning star . . . after like ten days, telling me: “You are great! Keep going!” And the star kinda glows and there’s like — there’s beams of light behind it. And it’s just — this is where we are, Paul. This is — these are the hugs I didn’t get from my father [right]. They are coming in as spinning stars that glow on my phone.
PF And they make you angry?
RZ And instead of making me feel good, they make me angry [right]. I have an app idea [yeah?]. Yeah. Here’s the app idea: when you do it good, don’t acknowledge it at all. The app’s called My Father [laughs].
PF Great, this is — this is wow, alright. Ok. Get in there.
RZ When I did well: dead silence [really?]. When I did poorly —
PF So you come in and you’re like, “Dad, great report card!”
RZ A minus. I came in with an A minus once. He’s like, “What’s the minus about?” [Yeah] I kid you not. So, I want an app that when you do well, it does nothing. When you slip, it shows up. It turns grey. And you open the app and it’s only grayscale and it’s not responding quickly.
PF Hey, what’s happening there?
RZ And what’s happening, at the bottom it says, “Having problems?” Question mark. And then you tap on it and you think you’re going to the support page, it’s like, “Listen to me. Listen to me.”
PF “You made a choice.”
RZ “You made a [laughing] choi — “ It’s like not positive reinforce —
PF What’s the — what’s the Bay Ridge listen? [Both laughing and talking.]
PF “Listen!!” Yeah. That is the name of the app, it’s Listen! With an exclamation point.
RZ Ok um. You do this again, I’m not gonna open up for three days [yeah] and I slip again, I eat like a —
RZ A cannoli. The little baby ones, the mini cannoli but I eat four of them.
PF You think you’re getting away with it, yeah.
RZ Right? I punch it in. The app locks on me [yeah] and I’m trying to use it the next day [nothing], it won’t open.
PF Well, you know, [the app won’t open] if you wanna ruin your body, I’m not gonna be any part of it.
RZ That’s right.
PF That’s the app.
RZ So four days later, it finally opens. You know what it says?
RZ “What do you want?”
PF “You decided to take it seriously again?”
RZ [Laughs] “What are you doing here?”
RZ And it gives me another shot. So literally —
PF It happens basically like you’re — if you had a brother who was really into weightlifting [yeah], “You’re really serious, brah?! You’re really serious this time?!?”
RZ “You doin’ this?!”
PF “Yeah, cuz everytime you say you’re gonna come down to the gym, it’s bullshit!”
RZ “Yeah, you’re not trying, you’re doin’!”
RZ I love the idea of an app that goes full greyscale and as you climb back out of it, the color, the hues come back in. So it starts to slowly saturate colors into — into the screen until it’s back to the way it was.
PF [Yells] “Now we’re making some muscle!”
RZ I wanna walk out of failure.
RZ I do not need badges. I don’t need anything spec — I don’t need sunshine [music fades in]. That’s not gonna get me there.
PF You’re not a boy scout. What you need is like —
RZ It’s not gonna get me there.
PF You need it to turn its back on you and be like, “I guess you’re not serious.”
RZ I need to not just turn its back on me. It’s that — it’s tough love [ok], essentially. It’s the tough love —
PF Oh alright, alright. So that’s it, can I tell you?
PF Hey, if you need anything — thank you for listening. Thank you, thank you, thank you. And if you need anything: email@example.com.
RZ Nothin’ but love!
PF Yeah. We’ve got Track Changes, you can subscribe to this podcast, you can subscribe to our newsletter at trackchanges.postlight.com, visit our website at postlight.com, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org [drags out “com” in a deep voice].
RZ Talk to us!
PF I don’t wanna say postlight.com again. Let’s go.
RZ Buh bye.
PF Bye [music ramps up to end].