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Show Notes

Accountability is friction: On this week’s episode of Track Changes Paul and Rich sit down to chat about different types of accountability software. Whether it’s a CRM, a to-do list or an app, we discuss what works best for staying on track and getting things done. We talk about the importance of empathy and support and why tactics based on fear never work in the long run. We also discuss why some software is moving away from adding accountability into its workflows despite it’s importance.

Transcript

Paul Ford A Sony AIBO that came up to you and is like, “Less carbs! [Barks like a dog:] Ruff ruff! Less carbs!” Cuz then you’d be like, “Oh AIBO, I know, but these pretzels are just so good.” 

Rich Ziade Yeah. 

PF And AIBO would be like, “Cardiovascular health! Ruff!” [Music plays alone for 18 seconds, ramps down.] Can a computer make you a better person? 

RZ Better like morally better? 

PF Well, that’s a lot for a computer. Thinner. 

RZ Um. 

PF Can it help you get your work done? 

RZ I mean it does. 

PF It does [music fades out] or is that just like, I mean, would like a day planner do you just as well, really? 

RZ Probably. 

PF It wouldn’t have everybody’s calendar in it. 

RZ Are you talking like to motivate you? 

PF Well, I mean, that’s just the thing. Right? Like it holds you accountable. 

RZ I see. So, rather than being held acc—

PF Motivate is tricky, like cuz when—Motivate is always ends up with like a little guy poppin’ goin’, “Hey! How you doin’? . . . You seem to be close to death [Rich laughs]. How about these three things?” Everybody always wants to animate something [yeah] to tell you how to live your frickin’ life. 

RZ Is the origins of this the paper clip? 

PF Oh you mean Clippy? 

RZ Clippy. No, that’s more of a helper. That’s like, “Can I help you if you’re stuck?” 

PF He’s also—Also the little dog. I always liked the dog. 

[1:18]

RZ The little dog showed up later. 

PF Yeah. 

RZ So, ok, give me an example.

PF Oh, ok, I’ll give you one. We have to sell stuff, right? We sell services to people, here at Postlight. Do you want services? Here’s a little ad. Here’s a little ad for you: If you need to build something amazing . . . for your phone or for desktop; you need a platform built—like digital stuff, you should get in touch with postlight, [email protected] Now you send me that email, what happens? 

RZ Someone’s gotta respond. 

PF Someone’s gotta respond and it goes immediately into a CRM, Customer Relationship Management software. 

RZ Yup. 

PF And the idea there is that instead of just hoping that the email works out and somebody owns it, that there is like a nice Kanban board that you move stuff around. 

RZ Right, because if you’ve got five people who get that email or like in our case. You end up with that like, “Is someone getting this? Is someone else getting this?” Unless there’s explicit ownership. So it becomes a, “Who’s getting it?” And then I’ll send that annoying email. 

PF [Chuckling] Well, let’s be clear, no one else worries as much. But Richard is like, “People got these? We got these? Are we—do we have—” And then invariably I write back, and I’m like, “That one was from Friday at 6pm, man. Just chill out. We’re gonna get through the weekend and reply.” 

RZ This exact scenario happened. 

PF This just happened like ten seconds ago. 

RZ Do you wanna know the ultimate accountability tool for me? . . . Keeping the note unread. 

PF Oh yeah, that’s a good one. Unread is huge. 

RZ It stayed bold colored until Sunday and, like a lunatic, it was a Friday night inquiry. 

[2:43]

PF Oh as it pushes down but it’s still bold? 

RZ It’s not just bold. I have my email setup so that the unreads stay at the top. 

PF That’s very healthy. 

RZ [Laughing] It’s so not healthy! And so I saw it Sunday afternoon and then I was—I asked the dumb question which is like, “Why didn’t anybody answer this Friday night email?” 

PF No, and it’s fine. I mean I was on it. Like you literally replied to it as I was replying to it. 

RZ It’s bad! It’s bad!

PF But here’s the thing about PipeDrive. PipeDrive is our CRM. A new lead comes in and it represents a deal, right? Like eventually—most deals—most new leads that come in don’t become deals. That’s just how it works. Like [yeah] maybe 10% do, right? But as they move along and you put them in stages, you assign little actions related to them. And the actions are like, “Needs proposal,” “Make sure to reply to email cuz they sent us a bunch of—” 

RZ Right. “Set up call.” 

PF So the thing that PipeDrive does, and this is an accountability pattern that’s really, really useful is every time you say, “I did it,” it immediately pops up the next action box that you have to fill out. 

RZ Right, when you say, “I’ve completed the task.” It’s like, “Well, time for the next task.” 

PF Because let’s be real: you didn’t complete the task until the deal is won or lost. 

RZ That’s the thing, right? 

PF There is no—you’re not done! Because you haven’t been able to say that this deal is won or lost. Once you can say that, you’re done. And so that is a really good accountability for me because I have a tendency to be like—especially when there’s 20, 30, 40 leads floatin’ around which sometimes happens. 

RZ Yup. 

PF I have a tendency to be like, “Oh well, I sent him that email and everything’s fine.” 

RZ Yeah. 

[4:14]

PF And then like two weeks can go by. 

RZ Right. And it’s really on us to nudge, right? 

PF In our business you nudge very gently. It’s not like you can be like, “Hey Mike, I saw that you are in need of services.” It’s like you gotta—it has to be a lot of give and take but people actually do appreciate the like, “No pressure, just lettin’ you know I’m still here when you need me.” 

RZ Mm hmm. Mm hmm. 

PF “I’ll ping you in a couple of weeks.” If you ping in a couple weeks, they go, “Oh, ok. He’s ser—They wanna do this.” And then that reminds them to go down the hall and get the budget. Like it sets off all these things. 

RZ Sometimes they go dark and that’s normal too. But what you’re talking about here is you’re trying to shape human behavior, right? 

PF That says, “You’re not off the hook until we’ve hit resolution here.” 

RZ Smart! 

PF And we did Dash which is for Slack. 

RZ Ok so Dash is—

PF Your Slack administrator can install this for you, by the way. 

RZ Yes. 

PF If you know who that is, and they are capable of doing that—

RZ Email them every day. 

PF It’s a great process to get new software into Slack. 

RZ Yes. So channels are funny in that they’re permanent. They tend to be created around topics, but what happens inside channels is every so often, everybody sort of huddles around a particular goal, whether it be the Friday deadline. And what happens is that the channel gets hijacked. Everyone’s conversations orient around this goal, right? 

[5:28]

PF Well and they did threads. So it’s like, “Well you can throw this over here in the pocket on the pool table and everyone can go over there and talk about that thing.” 

RZ Yeah. 

PF But [makes a defeated mumbling sound]—

RZ It’s—

PF Well, the threads get swallowed up by the rest of it then. So then it’s hard to tell what the priority is. 

RZ It’s hard. Threads sort of are this thing that keep the side conversations out of the mainline conversations but that’s not the way to orient—

PF Channels are just expensive. 

RZ Channels are expensive. Channels are expensive. 

PF Yeah, it’s like if you make a channel and you’re committing to—you’re actually making a decision about the culture of your organization every time you create a Slack channel. 

RZ I’d say over 50% of Postlight’s chatter on Slack is bullshit. And it’s good. I think it’s fine. It actually creates culture and connects people. 

PF Right, it’s any office. 

RZ But it’s a lot of chatter, right? I mean it’s a lot of just chatter. So we built a tool where you essentially do this. It’s in Slack. And you say, “Name the channel,” [mm hmm] but this channel has to go away. You have to give it an end goal, an end date. And it could be, “We’ve got a candidate coming in. These six people are interviewing them. And we wanna talk about how this candidate can fit into Postlight. And we need to solve this in three days cuz we wanna answer, make a move. Either say, ‘We’re not interested,’ or, ‘We want to go forward soon.’” Now, you can put that pressure by being a manager and just sort of take over the channel. You take over the HR channel and you’re like, “I wanna talk about David.” Right? And then all of a sudden it dominates but instead what we have here is like, “This thing is going to end on Friday.” It’s called—the channel’s called David Candidate and it has five people in it and those are the people that should talk about it. But it will go away. And it creates this sort of unusual—it’s almost like oxygen running out [laughs]. 

PF Well, it does. No, no it puts—

[7:05]

RZ It puts pressure! I mean it puts—

PF It’s like when you have people give demos and you set a five minute clock.

RZ Yes. 

PF Right? What the deadline is it makes everybody accept that a decision’s gonna be made and they’re gonna either have their say or not. Like, there are some Dashes I’m invited where I just don’t say a word because people are figuring it out. 

RZ Yup! That’s fine. 

PF And then they figure it out and like I had my opportunity, I’m here. If I need to weigh in, I can weigh in but for the most part, why say a word? 

RZ It’s a tool that orients people around things that need to get done. Rather than just places to go talk. And, I have to say, we’ve tried other tools, you know Postlight Labs is a thing that pushes a lot of stuff out. Some take, some don’t. 

PF Failure’s ok. 

RZ Failure’s ok. This one—I mean, for Postlight—

PF Has been a hit. 

RZ Has been a hit. We really use it a lot. 

PF Here’s what’s hard: the original name for Dash was Huddle which I thought was a good descriptive term.

RZ It is. 

PF It’s good it’s called Dash, long story, but what’s hard, actually, is accountability isn’t built into tools. So it actually takes a minute to learn and think [mm hmm], “Hey, I should start one of these to get that conversation focused.” Like [yeah] building accountability into a platform actually turns out to be really hard cuz mostly they have one flow that they want people to follow. 

RZ And they assume they’re gonna be good actors. 

[8:15]

PF You know what accountability does too? It actually is—it’s friction. 

RZ It is. 

PF It’s friction in the system. And every single rule of product development and user experience right now is to get rid of friction. 

RZ Yeah. 

PF And so like you’re actually saying, “I’m gonna make someone stop and fill out the form. I’m gonna make them stop and set a deadline. [Mm hmm] And really think it through. It can’t just be this continual flow of conversation, we need to put some goals around it.” 

RZ Yeah.

PF Fitness trackers are probably like the big conversation here, right? 

RZ I put ‘em in two categories, all of this, which is collaborative accountability and individual [that’s a good point] accountability. I think a fitness tracker is the classic individual accountability tool. 

PF “Hey! Who do you wanna be?” 

RZ Who do you wanna be? Right? 

PF “Do you wanna be at 9,999 steps or do you wanna be somebody who goes up one real important digit?” 

RZ Correct. And fitness trackers and calorie counting is a thing—which is like—and these incredibly deep databases of everything you could possibly think of is in this thing. And then you punch it in and then if you worked out you get an extra 300 calories for the day, and then you get to eat it all away when you eat that, you know, Drake’s Suzy Q. 

PF See, the problem is, like, actually they’re really good at giving you the Suzy Q calories cuz they’ve worked that out in a lab but persimmons are always really perplexing. [Rich laughs] They’re like, “Persimmons—” 

RZ There’s also like you gotta get the weight of the carrots. 

PF Yeah so one pound or three ounces? 

RZ Yeah, yeah. 

[9:38]

PF And you’re like, “I don’t know.” 

RZ It’s a hard problem, right? I mean everything’s in there. It’s actually pretty impressive and it works for a lot of people. I did it for a bit. And it stopped—I just got tired of it. I just got tired of—the game wasn’t fun to me. You know? And—and—

PF Oh it’s existentially exhausting. 

RZ It’s exhausting. It’s just a little tiring and—and—

PF I will say I built my own calorie tracker once. 

RZ You did? 

PF Yeah, I did. It had a website and I would—

RZ Of course you did. 

PF Of course I did. And what I did—I’ll tell you the part that worked: I lost 90, almost 100 pounds on this thing which I’ve since—

RZ That’s great! 

PF Yeah since I’ve gained it back, so that’s less great but when I was using it, the calorie tracking ended up not mattering much. I created a little module that let me write a few paragraphs and then put a picture in. And the ritual of making the content everyday and connecting it to the—

RZ Interesting. 

PF—amount of weight lost and gained. And I made myself get on the scale every day and all of that. 

RZ Yeah. 

PF That ritual was really important. And it was a website, people were reading it, and sharing it, and talking about it. 

RZ Oh, ok, so you were out there. This wasn’t a personal—

[10:41]

PF Just for a small group. I never publicized it [ok] but like for like a group of friends. I was like, “I’m gonna try something here.” 

RZ Ok. 

PF And they would give me shit; and they would send me pictures; and they would be like, “You should try this; you should try that.” And it was a positive interaction as opposed to like, “You piece of crap.” And it felt good. 

RZ Did it feel good? 

PF It did. 

RZ What caused it to fall off? You just get exhausted with the whole thing? 

PF Yeah! You know I think it’s—I felt it while I was doing it. It’s a razor thin line, man. You are just like [Rich laughs]—you’re [chuckles] down a hundred calories and you did good today. You’re up a hundred calories, you didn’t do so good. You’re on that scale. The progress is slow. It gets slower and slower. And then like the holidays roll around and you don’t fill out the form for a few days. And you know when you get back on that scale it’s not gonna be good [Rich laughs]. Then like, you know, your boss gets fired or something bad happens. 

RZ Stress comes into your life. 

PF Stress comes in, you have a couple of kids [yeah], and suddenly like—because there’s a lot of foundational stuff that had to happen, right? I needed to be riding my bike. I needed serotonin up. I needed exercise. I needed to like count all the calories. I needed the time. I had to take a picture every day. Putting an hour or more into that ritual was really, really rewarding. And then the world does not conspire to support you in that endeavor. Apple is trying to. And Google are trying to. They want you to like, you know. 

RZ I think the idea of delivering little bits of joy in return, and that can come in the form of, you know, badges.

PF Yeah. 

RZ Gamifying these things. You know for a long—

PF You know what was meaningful for me was building up the corpus a little bit. Like putting in—learning the calories on the different foods; learning like how much exercise resulted in how much this and that—

[12:20]

RZ You learned about what it takes. 

PF Seeing your body go up and down; monitoring your mood and understanding—That self-awareness was really good. But I’ll tell you it was at a time in my life where I had very little job stress. 

RZ So you were able—you found daylight to focus on this. 

PF Yeah, and I didn’t have kids. 

RZ Stress for you connects to bad habits, bad eating habits and stuff. 

PF Oh my God! 100%! Like it’s very well documented. I used to give readings about it. So. 

RZ Yeah, this is personal accountability, right? 

PF It’s personal. 

RZ But I mean for a long time, you know, my wife believes in personal training—personal trainers. And I always felt like I’ve got enough discipline. I’ll work out four times a week without flinching. 

PF No, no, another human being is very motivating. 

RZ That’s the thing, right? “I can’t—I made the appointment with Steve. I’m not gonna let them down.” And the truth is, I think, that’s key, right? And I think that’s what machines are trying to do. They’re trying to simulate this responsibility towards another, right? 

PF Yeah, I mean, that’s the thing: this is what people won’t admit, right? It’s like the Sony AIBO. Remember that little dog? 

RZ That was a shitty dog. 

PF It was not a great robot, right? 

RZ It’s an early robot which you gotta give ‘em credit for trying that out. 

PF That thing—your phone is not a good accountability coach. 

[13:26]

RZ But what if it was like you know there’s like those animated trainer guys, like, “Good morning, Paul!” 

PF You see it—you get that service mirror now? Have you seen Mirror? 

RZ I’ve seen Mirror. 

PF It’s like eight trillion dollars and you get this—it’s a very minimalist training environment. The weights are all [yes] painted white. 

RZ Yes. I’ve seen this. 

PF And you stand in front of a mirror and you get trained. Peloton’s a little bit like this too. 

RZ Meaning there’s little human interaction. I think Peloton’s classes. 

PF That’s right. 

RZ But still they’re live; there are others; you can, I think, they rank ‘em or something. 

PF See we’re always trying to solve this puzzle which is that direct human interaction is not scalable and so we’re always trying to simulate that. And then media is a wonderful example where like you can write something and millions of people can read it and it’s one webpage and it costs about a dollar 75 now to circulate to millions of people. 

RZ Right. 

PF But again like that’s distribution with no accountability. And so everyone in the industry is trying to find that balance.

RZ Yes. 

PF But, if you notice, if you look at very wealthy people, they have that personal trainer. And nobody—nobody who’s like worth hundreds of millions of dollars is gonna sit there and tell you like, “I use mike.com! The personal trainer named Mike!” This is all like . . . trying to fake what everybody knows works which is—

RZ Which is? 

PF You notice how skinny like Steve Ballmer is these days?

[14:39]

RZ He is very skinny. He’s got a personal chef who’s making a lot of—

PF That’s the thing! 

RZ—like parsnips. 

PF Oh! He’s figured out that Steve likes a gentle glazing of cinnamon on certain—[Rich chuckles] Just you know—it’s, it’s—

RZ How do I trigger Steve’s brain without making him the whole Cinnabon? 

PF That’s exactly it! He misses that Cinnabon. You know they’ve probably had that conversation. 

RZ Yeah, there are very few people have that luxury to have those meals be put in front of them and also the trainer is nearby. I’ve known people who—

PF Nothing works like a staff of 20 keeping you healthy. That is a really good—

RZ I do wanna point out: I’ve known a lot of people who’ve turned towards big success and they always get thin! [Laughing] They always get the personal trainer right afterwards. 

PF Oh, yeah! Absolutely! Once the startup sells—

RZ Oh everybody gets a trainer!

PF They immediately lose like 45 pounds and they start to get—it’s always some really specific kind of body where it’s like a weight training or soccer or you know like squash. Like there’s always a thing

RZ That’s true. 

PF—that they are training. So look, I mean, healthcare is an obvious one. And we’ve talked a lot to clients who say, “Hey, here’s a well known health condition and we wanna build an app that allows people to manage; put information in; share it with medical professionals. All that stuff.” 

RZ Mm hmm. 

PF I mean and it’s like we’ve got work like that; and there are people who come to us and talk—that pattern is very well defined. And I think you can get funding for it now. 

RZ Yes. 

[15:55]

PF Like I think if you go out and you say like, “This is how we’re gonna do it.” People go, “Well, clearly behavioral change can occur if everyone has this mobile device and they’re somewhat motivated toward—” 

RZ I’ll tell you an interesting kind of side note on this. We have a client right now that’s in the med tech space and without giving any details away, they’re very excited about tools that, you know, read information and then send it to the healthcare providers . . . because one of the biggest challenges they have is they go to the doctor and they lie . . .

PF Yeah! No, this is true. 

RZ People lie! People lie—of course! “I didn’t eat anything this weekend. It was carrots! I swear.” 

PF And let’s be clear, this is good privacy guards with full accountability here. This is not like—

RZ Yes, yes, yes, yes. 

PF We’re not spying on people but literally people will opt in and say, “Of course report back to my doctor.” And then yeah, they’ll go to the doctor and say, “I just had carrots.” 

RZ “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” “We have your readings from Thursday. What happened Thursday? Either you slammed into a truck filled with donuts.” 

PF Yeah. 

RZ “Or something [Paul chuckles] else happened.” 

PF “Why is your blood a slurry?” 

RZ [Laughing] “Why is it corn syrup?” 

PF And it’s like, “Well, Sham—” 

RZ Like, “I don’t know! Your machine’s broken!” 

PF “Shamrock shake just fell into my open mouth.” 

RZ [Laughs] So yeah, where does it work? Gaming, I think, only goes so far. It doesn’t work. It’s a certain personality. Some people like games as ways to track things. I don’t have an Apple Watch. 

[17:10]

PF I think with healthcare, too, you gotta be mindful. The healthcare community if they see a 3.5% increase in medical compliance around prescription drugs. 

RZ Yeah. 

PF People taking their drugs. That is a vast victory. Like thousands of lives [true] are being saved. 

RZ True. People skip meds; people do all the wrong things. 

PF So we’re here like rolling our eyes a little bit at an animated guy who says, “Hey, you know, don’t forget!” 


RZ Yeah. But it’s a big deal. Yeah, yeah, yeah. 

PF “You know, clear your ears!” But if you’re getting above 0% increase, by medical ethics and sort of how the medical world sees things, like that’s an unbelievable success. So like put that aside, whether—All it has to do is work a little bit. 

RZ Yeah. 

PF To be really, really good. So I think, you know, yeah, the Apple Watch can identify when people are, you know, have different kinds of medical risks, that’s as far as the field goes. That’s a really good thing. 

RZ Yes. Agreed. 

PF Now we come to—So, almost put it aside for healthcare because we’re gonna keep experimenting with mobile devices and things you strap on your wrist and so on and so forth, and accountability patterns for the next 50 years. That is now part of the culture. Where else do you like glue this stuff in? 

RZ I think—

PF Cuz how may to-do lists are there in the world? 

[18:16]

RZ That is the grandfather of all of this, by the way. 

PF Everybody likes to build a to-do list. The minute somebody gets a huge payout . . . they either go build a to-do list or they buy—get really into drones. 

RZ [Laughs] Or drones that walk around with to-do lists—or fly around with to-do lists. 

PF Exactly and they lose 45 pounds. 

RZ And the trainer. Well you gotta have the two hours with the personal trainer. 

PF That’s right. That’s right. And then they give a talk about like some thing that they learned that was really important after they sold the startup. 

RZ [Laughs] Some revelation of some kind. Do you use a to-do list? 

PF I do. 

RZ Do you live by it? 

PF I really do. I don’t have a choice. I’m basically inbox zero. I have about three things in my inbox right now. 

RZ Agreed. I have a to-do list manager as well. We have a lot swirling. We have a lot of context switching that we do.

PF Mm hmm. 

RZ We will get in trouble. I think—

PF We’re more and more reliant on the CRM to understand the state of the—

RZ The CRM gives this birds eye view but also helps prioritize. 

PF It helps us figure out what the business is gonna look like about six months from now. Just cuz it’s an instinct. 

RZ Yeah. I mean, I like the idea of it not being a thing that nags you. 

PF It’s so hard, right? It’s so hard. 

[19:24]

RZ That’s absolutely key. 

PF There are apps that tell you, “Stand up at your desk! And don’t forget to drink coffee and—” 

RZ Yeah, yeah, and, “Drink your water! Drink water eight times a day.” And also just the pings. 

PF They all become nags. Eventually. Humans don’t like having their behavior modified and controlled by robots, deep down. 

RZ We move out of our parents’ houses when we can. 

PF Yeah, that’s exactly it. 

RZ You know, I had this app idea . . . called Mother. 

PF Yeah. 

RZ And all it did was every so often—

PF Play the song “Mother” by The Police with Stewart Copeland? 

RZ Or Pink Floyd. 

PF Off of Synchronicity.

RZ No, no, it wouldn’t do that. 

PF That song’s rough. 

RZ It would say things out of the blue like it’ll just notify you, “Sit up straight.” 

PF I look forward to the 7,000 emails we’ll receive about like, “Why is it Mother?” [Rich laughs] Also, you ever notice how in the eighties everyone was really angry about their mom in rock music? 

RZ Hmmm. 

PF Like “The Wall”, The Police, everyone has that song which is just like, [trembling, nasal voice], “Mother!” 

RZ That’s a good observation. 

PF Everybody should just chill out on mom. 

[20:23]

RZ So, ok, nagging is annoying. What works? Look—

PF You wanna know what really works? 

RZ No, but there’s professional pressure! Right? Like your boss tells you—I mean, I’m not supposed to say boss either, I don’t think. 

PF No, boss is ok. 

RZ Ok. Tells you to do a thing. 

PF You’re allowed to hate your boss. You can’t hate your mother. 

RZ And you don’t do the thing, you’re not gonna do well, and you’re gonna upset people. 

PF Let’s be real: you know what actually works? Love, empathy, and support which is kinda what you pay your trainer for. 


RZ Interesting. 

PF He wants you to be well. He does. At some level, your trainer’s going like, “This guy Rich came in. Now he’s over 40. Let’s help this guy become the best guy he can be.” Like love and empathy and so literally like the—

RZ Can—is that something that can come into the business world and business tools? 

PF Oh I would argue it’s there all the time but nobody will admit it because it’s like—

RZ Woah!

PF—you can’t connect that to ROI . . . but like every time we talk about design, we’re talking about empathy and respect. Every time we talk about good product work, we’re talking about respect. 

RZ True. 

PF Like our entire business is based on the idea that it’s worth it to pay us more money than you would pay someone who doesn’t give a shit. And [right] then we’ll look at the user, and we’ll go, “How can I help that person?” And we’ll translate that into code. 

[21:27]

RZ Ok. 

PF That is our offering. And we have people who come in—and I’m thinking of like one specific potential client who came in and was just like, “Why would I have you build a good product based on a bunch of like media sites? I can just put a lot of analytics on this and figure out a marketing funnel and put ads on these?” And it was just like, “Why are you here?” 

RZ [Laughs] “Why did you take an hour away from our lives?” 

PF Seriously, like, “You can go milk that starving cow, if you want to.” 

RZ You know what you’re talking about? You’re talking about fear or love. 

PF Yeah. 

RZ In software. 

PF Yeah. 

RZ That’s what you’re talking about. You’re talking about how do you get people to do things? And you can do it through fear . . . which is the jerk boss who’s just pushy and intimidating. 

PF Most apps, ultimately, they are designed for fear. 

RZ Most apps, I think, are designed for fear. 

PF Yeah because they’re like, “You didn’t get it done. You didn’t get it done. You didn’t—” 

RZ “You didn’t get it done.” And then you get the notification and then you get an email. 

PF And then they try. Like I see I’ll like not make my step count on Google and it’ll be like, “Hey! You wanna adjust it? We’re gonna help you out!” And it’s just like—

RZ Yeah, it’s passive aggressive too. I mean—

PF And I’m like, “Don’t adjust it. I wanna know where I am on a baseline.” 

RZ Yeah. 

PF “Even when you tell me to adjust it, you’re saying, ‘Hey, man, you kinda suck.’” 

[22:34]

RZ This is really hard, right? This is really hard. 

PF Well this is the real work. And look, this part is expensive and difficult and tends to happen—it needs to like get started at the platform level, like at, you know, Apple SDK but like—

RZ Yup. 

PF This is the hardest part because it’s gotta be narrative and friendly and warm but it can’t just be some animated guy popping up and it’s gotta be a little bit strong and it also has to tell you like love and empathy don’t actually come—they’re not snuggly. 

RZ Yeah. 

PF Everybody thinks that. Think about how you like love your son or your daughter. You’re like, “I do love you. I want you to snuggle with me and we’ll watch a little TV but when you’re misbehaving you have to lock that down.” 

RZ There’s guidance. There’s pressure that’s exerted at the right times. That’s real. 

PF So you can imagine if a fitness app is like, “I know you could do better. What’s goin’ on right now? Too busy? Too tired? Just don’t wanna deal?” Like I click the button and [interesting] it’s like, “Cool, that’s good to know. Here are some things to think about—” Because they all have the same logic. Right? Cuz I’ve tried a lot of them. It’s all like, “Well, you know, with only 20 more minutes a day you could bah bah bah.” And it’s like, “I don’t—[mumbling discontentedly].” 

RZ I wanna plug my trainer but I’m not gonna say his name but he does that. He’s like—I was going on vacation so I cancelled the next few that I was going to. He’s like, “Just go enjoy yourself. You live a pretty good, healthy baseline. And you’re going away and don’t come back and say, ‘Oh my God, you wouldn’t believe. I didn’t move off the couch.’” 

PF Yeah! Live your life! Come back with a little gut. We’ll take care of it. 

RZ No, it’s not even we’ll take care of it. He’s just like, “You’re doing good.” I have this tendency if I missed a workout, I wanna go double. Which makes no sense actually. It’s actually worse for your body. 

PF This is your personality though. 

RZ It’s my personality but I think, you know, people don’t get that out of tools. We’re trying to like sort of optimize ourselves through these tools and you’re just not gonna get it. I wanna end this with a plug, a really unusual one. 

[24:21]

PF Ok. Go for it. 

RZ So, there’s a lot of people who connect with people on YouTube cuz then they have a friend [laughs]. 

PF Yeah. That’s right. That’s why people listen to podcasts. Hi, everybody. 

RZ It’s an exercise series of videos. And her name is Sydney Cummings. 

PF Ok. 

RZ Ok. And I kid you not, I’m pretty sure she puts one out every single day. 

PF Mm hmm. 

RZ I don’t think she’s ever cracked like 30, 40,000 views for any of them. 

PF No, that’s the YouTube hustle, you gotta keep movin’. 

RZ Every day and the production is good, and she almost hints to you sometimes, like, “I really didn’t wanna do this one today. [Laughs] But we’re gonna do it. And you’re here with me.” 

PF What kind of exercise?

RZ It’s all kinds. All kinds. Like cardio, weight, it’s very straightforward. She had to disappear for a bit cuz she had a bad injury from an accident of some kind. So she shared that with you and so she pretty much didn’t feel like you were a client. She was just like, “We’re gonna do this. It’s really good to see you again.” [Laughs

PF I used to watch this weightlifter named Scoob . . . who was just like, “Let’s do some pushups.” And just the nicest guy in the world [Rich laughs]. Just an absolute machine. 

RZ Did you do the pushups or would you just watch him do the pushups? 

PF Both. Both. And then, you know, somehow I drifted away! [Rich laughs] Look, I mean, I know we’re getting a little [music fades in] into the spiritual here, right? But I think at some level—

RZ I think we’re back to design in a weird way. 

[25:35]

PF You are and you’re back to like really increasing the potentialities, right? 

RZ Yeah. 


PF Really thinking about users doing things. Like actually just having a psychological model that isn’t that people are always gonna need to get better. Give your users a minute; let ‘em take a breath. 

RZ Yeah, we’re wired to metrics, right now. We’re wired A/B testing and how we’re gonna get you to do it. 

PF That’s right. Which, you know what? For a CRM, fine. But then there’s this whole another [sic] class of humanity where like the things that we do with computers, take a breath. 

RZ I think that’s great advice. Paul, we are a shop based in New York City called Postlight. 

PF We sure are. 

RZ And one of the things we take a lot of pride in is how we bring designers and engineers together. 

PF Mm hmm. 

RZ To deliver really compelling, usable, scalable product. 

PF And we like to work with your actual users. We sit down with them; we listen to them; we watch them use the tools their using today; and that’s what we build from. 

RZ Yes. 

PF We don’t just sort of wave our arms in the air, we try to solve the real problem. 

RZ And we are Postlight. 

PF And if you need us: [email protected] Alright, let’s get back to work. I have like ten emails that my CRM is saying I have to send. 

RZ Me too. I have a long to-do list. 

PF Ok, bye [music ramps up, plays alone for four seconds, fades out to end].