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Episode 112 April 10, 2018 | 28min

How To Cope With Facebook…Or Not

Our co-founders sit down and talk about the terrible week at Facebook.

Show Notes

They Have One Product: This week Paul Ford and Rich Ziade sit down to chat about the hellscape that is Facebook. We discuss the content farms of yesteryear, debate Silicon Valley’s role in protecting our privacy, and complain about how ugly the Facebook interface is. Rich even paints us a picture of Zuckerberg holding a dead cat.

Paul Ford A tough week for Facebook, Rich!

Rich Ziade [Scoffs] It sure has, Paul!

PF [Laughs] Oh boy [music fades in, plays alone for 16 seconds, ramps down]. Hey! Rich!

[0:22]

RZ Paul! It’s great to see you.

PF It’s good to see you too.

RZ As always. Great to see you for an hour straight.

PF There’s a thing that we need to talk about.

RZ Mm hmm.

PF I feel that we’ve [chuckles] talked about it too many times. But it’s not LinkedIn.

RZ No?

PF No, it’s Facebook [music fades out].

RZ Oh boy. We’ve talked about it a few times.

PF Yeah yeah.

RZ Can’t help but dip into Facebook every so often.

PF It’s really big and it’s a really important thing that really runs [yeah] our lives.

RZ It’s real.

PF So.

RZ There’s a lot going on for Facebook right now.

PF They have one product, the product is the social network and your access to that social network.

RZ Mm hmm.

PF So privacy should actually be something they have worked out in my opinion.

[0:56]

RZ Yes. Privacy’s a weird word to me.

PF Ok.

RZ Part of it is my privacy, meaning nobody else can see my feed that has my aunt, and uncle, and mom, and dad, except me [mm hmm mm hmm]. To be that private.

PF Yeah. Ok. Yeah, that’s private. That’s right.

RZ Right? Right? So I think Facebook does a very good job of not letting anyone else see my mom’s weird photos.

PF That’s true.

RZ Except for the people she wants to see.

PF That’s true.

RZ I think privacy underestimates . . . what’s really going on here and that it’s a bad thing.

PF Mmm.

RZ And I think what — what Facebook . . . has failed to do — businesses can do whatever they want . . . as long as they’re not breaking the law.

PF Yeah.

RZ And you could make a good case that Facebook is not breaking the law.

PF Well that’s the thing — the things that Facebook’s in trouble for, if they were one hundredth the size [right] wouldn’t be as big a deal.

RZ That’s right.

PF But they have a reasonable approximation of all human population, they have like two billion people in the system.

RZ Yes.

PF Let’s say that’s one out of seven living people.

RZ Yeah.

PF Right? That’s — that’s power.

[2:00]

RZ Yeah. They’re doing stuff to me I don’t know about.

PF Sure.

RZ That’s very different to me than privacy.

PF Right.

RZ Facebook is very good with keeping me private.

PF If I want them to be.

RZ If I want them to be —

PF I can publish the same picture to the whole world if I want to.

RZ Correct.

PF But uh you know, when [stammers] I only want to picture of the babies to be seen by mom [right], they’re good at that.

RZ I thought — most people think that Facebook makes its money through the Timex ad that shows up in between my family posts.

PF Right.

RZ That’s how most people understand Facebook to be.

PF Yeah.

RZ But there is something way, way more powerful. And, to over dramatize it: sinister . . . about what they are willing to do with my behavior not just on Facebook. That’s the hairy part of it, right? Facebook has seeped itself into the entire internet, and they are pervasive.

[2:55]

PF Right, they know — they know the other sites you visit as well.

RZ And they know that you don’t feel like filling out a signup form [mm hmm]. They also know that [mm hmm]. And they also know that everybody else thinks I have to connect to Facebook.

PF That’s right so like that little like button — uh the little thumbs up button that appears on other websites.

RZ Yeah.

PF Sometimes that’s hosted directly by Facebook.

RZ You are everywhere, man. [Yeah] They are — they are over your shoulder . . . as you experience just about all of the internet. I mean your email is pretty much walled off but —

PF Here’s the thing — it doesn’t matter. Like, [yeah] they have — even if they have ten percent [yeah], that’s enough. They — they can see a lot of what people are doing, and people log in through their service to access other services.

RZ I had this — this rant a couple of podcasts ago where I said nobody’s give a shit.

PF Mm hmm.

RZ Remember I was — you’re not interesting. Nobody cares about your data.

PF Mm hmm.

RZ Your life’s not interesting. Et cetera, et cetera. And that’s — I still believe that.

PF Well statistically that’s true. It’s not like Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg are sitting there going like [correct] — with a large stack of paper [yes], going like, “Mm-mm! Ziade! Check check.”

RZ Yeah, exactly.

PF It’s not Santa.

RZ Correct. But there are some very, very smart people at Facebook and what they do know how to do is take a handful of datapoints, triangulate on them, and peg me as someone that can be taken from point A to point B.

PF I’ve been thinking a lot about where it all went wrong.

[4:17]

RZ Tell me.

PF Alright. The internet as we know it is really the web plus. Like, there’s a whole — there’s email that’s on — but even — even email at this point is kind of seen often like if you use Gmail, most people use web services at this point, is sorta through the web. So, most of the things that people associate with the internet or the web — the web was a document delivery platform. You made a page in HTML, you put it on a server, you linked to some other pages, and it created a web of documents.

RZ Correct.

PF Ok. And that was really cool! At the moment that it happened. And then search engines show up and they start to aggregate all that stuff [yeah], and they make it possible to search through all of it. That was also really cool. We talk a lot about the incredible power Google has but the reason Google has that power is it provided a service that no one else did quite as well.

RZ Yeah.

PF They were good at it. There were other search engines but they were really good and then —

RZ Google dove deeper.

PF Yeah.

RZ And said, “Links aren’t enough. We wanna be smart.” So if search “advil side effects” —

PF Mm hmm.

RZ It goes one level deeper than the hyperlink that’s gonna help me with Advil side effects. It literally tells me the Advil side effects, right?

PF Well and also one of the things that happened really early was the web got easy to game because if I thought that people were gonna be interested in Advil side effects I could make a hundred thousand pages called “Advil Side Effects!”

RZ Remember that startup that was just spinning up articles because anybody asked anything.

PF There were lots of them. There were a lot — I can’t remember —

[5:37]

RZ Was it eHow? Was it e —

PF There’s — yeah, no, I mean I think —

RZ Like, “How do I get that thing out of my ear?” And then there would be like weird —

PF That’s WikiHow!

RZ That’s WikiHow? Is that what it is?

PF That’s the one with the amazing illustrations.

RZ That’s what I’m talking about and the illustrations are done by like Malaysian children.

PF Well, those were ca — those were called content farms.

RZ Content farms! That’s right.

PF Ok. So what was happening — so anyway, that was kinda the end game but the original advertising model was about content. It was like, “Hey, people like to read this stuff, and, you know, they like to search for the — ” I search for Advil and Advil [yeah] buys — it’s like, “Oh hey! Somebody’s searching for Advil!”

RZ Viewership!

PF Exactly. And the i — it was pretty neutral as to what pages you would end up viewing —

RZ Yeah.

PF And you could have sponsored pages and so on [mm hmm] but for the most part you could tell the difference between what was advertising and what wasn’t. And it was about the content. It was about the intent and about —

RZ Yeah!

PF And then there were automatic services that put ads on pages based on the content in the pages.

RZ Yup.

PF So if you had a page about air travel um United Airlines might put uh — uh an ad in there.

RZ Fine! Fine!

[6:35]

PF Which is how you end up in — actually but there were tricky situations too which we all used to talk about which would be like, um — uh there was a plane crash and then United Airlines ad appears to the right of the plane crash.

RZ Yeah that was getting pretty rough.

PF There’s that stuff. That’s — and that com — that gets now lumped under the — often under the concept of brand safety.

RZ Yeah.

PF So: documents, intent, advertisements based on the content, and then —

RZ Advertisements based on searches . . . Now you’re edging . . . to, you know, more smarts.

PF But here’s what’s tricky: at a certain point —

RZ So where did it keep going? I think that’s —

PF Well, see at a certain point they went, “You know what? We can match all this content. And we can think in a content driven way about advertising. [Sing songy “or”] Or we could start to — we actually know quite a bit about who’s lookin’ at the page . . . You know? We gave them a cookie and it lives in their browser. And we know the kind — and we can actually like we can put images, we can put little beacons and trackers [yeah], and those can um show up on different pages if we work with the advertisers and other publishers [yeah], and we can know kinda where people are goin’ on the web.”

RZ Well . . . this is what it feels like to me: you go to the mall, I don’t know if anybody goes to the mall anymore —

PF Uh I still go.

RZ But they go to the mall. You go? Right?

PF Yeah. All the time.

RZ Alright. So you go to the mall because you’re thinking about what do you call that thing? It’s not a lawnmower. It like spins the little wire and —

[7:54]

PF I’ll just go to Sharper Image and get a massage chair.

RZ Alright.

PF Yeah.

RZ [Chuckling] So I come out of there, do a little, you know, pricing and whatnot, and I keep walking but now I walk by J.Crew [mm hmm], I say, “Wow those are some nice scarves [mm hmm], so I go in and get a scarf.” And I’m done. And . . . I get in my car . . . and I’m going home [right] and I look and there’s somebody in the back seat . . .

PF Ok. Oh that’s scary.

RZ And they say, “Hey, you know, there’s gonna be a sale in a month on that massage chair.”

PF You know what they really say, actually, is like [and — and], “Hey. Hey. [RZ laughs].”

RZ “What are you doing?! Following me home?”

PF They actually don’t say words too. You’re like, “What are you doing in the back of my car?” And you go — and they just go, “[Mockingly, slowly] Massage chair.” [RZ laughs] And you’re like, “No, no, no, no! I need you to get out of my car. Please get out of my car!”

RZ “Get out of the car! I’m coming up to a red light. Get out of my car.”

PF And you’re like [stammers], you literally went to the newsstand [yeah]. You’re reading The New York Times and they kinda come up behind you and turn the page down and they’re like [yeah] [in deep, slow whisper], “Massage chair.”

RZ [Chuckles] No, and you know what it is? They get smarter. They say, “Well, is your back bothering you, Paul?”

PF Yeah.

RZ “Let’s talk that through. I mean what — how are you — how are you eating these days?”

PF And what’s so unsettling is like, yeah, well it’s not just that, you’re sitting there reading like, you know, leg pain articles or —

RZ Oh that’s the worst —

[9:12]

PF Or — or — or they’re — or you’re looking for a new grill. And now it’s this confusing thing where it’s like, “Wait a minute, he wants a new grill but he also wanted a massage chair.” Like — [laughs].

RZ [Laughing] We gotta piece this together, right?

PF Yeah and then there’s — there’s like a dynamic system [yeah]. There’s this huge, dynamic system [yeah] of interlocking services [correct] that are getting you that massage chair ad.

RZ That’s right and so . . .

PF But it’s about the person now. It’s about chasin’ the person around.

RZ Why are you f — and so what I just described to you is the human cookie, right?

PF Yeah.

RZ It is — that’s what it is. And then, by the way, on the highway, there’s a way out.

PF It’s like a pris —

RZ There’s an ex — exit that’s called incognito.

PF Yeah. That’s right.

RZ [Laughs] Where you get it to just veer off! And, by the way, when you take that incognito exit, it’s a really —

PF You know the entire —

RZ [Laughing] Really shady part of town.

PF The entire relationship that we have with online advertising is basically like you ever see the TV show Columbo?

RZ Uh, I am old enough to have seen that TV show.

PF Yeah. It’s just Peter Falk going like, “Hey — ”

RZ [Laughs] He just sorta shrugs.

PF He’s like, “Hey um — how long have you had that massage chair?”

RZ [Laughs boisterously] Yeah.

[10:15]

PF You’re like, “No, no, no, like — that’s not even my massage chair.” And he’s like —

RZ Ok.

PF “Oh! You in the market for a massage chair?”

RZ Yeah but then he comes back in two weeks with more questions.

PF That’s right. And you’re just like you can’t — it’s so annoying and you can’t. But he’s kinda — you know it’s just [right] what it is. It’s how it works that Peter Falk can come up. Uh so that’s the entire ad industry is Columbo and we’re all guilty [yeah] and that’s how it feels. They’re just like, “Why won’t you buy it?”

RZ Yeah. And I guess, you know, look: this is funny but I think what we’re gettin’ at here is nobody does it better [music fades in], and nobody has drawn — has laid out more wiring than Facebook.

[Music ramps up, plays alone for eight seconds.]

PF Wow! Ok. So um before we keep talking about Facebook anymore, and I know everyone’s listening with total attention and diligence. Let’s tell the people for, I don’t know, 30 seconds [yes] why we’re even doing this, who we are, and why we’re here.

RZ We are the co-founders of Postlight.

PF A digital products studio at 101 5th Avenue in New York City.

RZ And we’re two years and we’re kicking ass because we build really great platforms, and the apps that are powered by those platforms. We design, we engineer, we architect. Amazing group. Um get in touch if you want some love from Postlight.

PF Yeah, I almost don’t wanna wave around my arms too much because we’re just — we’re doing good.

RZ We are.

PF We wanna — we wanna build big, complex platforms and solve big, complex problems. We’re getting to it, if you wanna do it with us, let us know. And we are growing. Uh we need engineers in the United States . . . Lebanon, for everyone who’s listening, uh and we need product managers, and we need uh user [designers] experience designers. Yeah.

[11:52]

RZ We need it all and uh it’s — it’s hot.

PF And we need clients!

RZ And if you wanna talk to us . . . just talk to us.

PF Yeah, [email protected]

RZ That’s ok too.

PF [email protected]

RZ [email protected]

PF Check out the website. [Music fades in] Let’s get back and talk a little more about Facebook though cuz that’s why people are really here.

[Music ramps up, plays along for eight seconds.]

PF [Music ramps down] Google, actually, for all of its many [music fades out], many faults, you know, you get that ad and its got the little X in the top right, and there’s kind of a brand identity for the Google chase you around the web systems.

RZ yeah, yeah.

PF And you’re just like, “[Sighs] Hell. I know they’re doing sneaky stuff. I’m sure we’ll find out.”

RZ No, it’s fine.

PF But it’s just not as like with Facebook it is this like . . . the iceberg is 99.9 percent under the water.

RZ Yeah, yeah.

PF And there’s also the fact that the large part of the world that accesses the internet doesn’t know the difference between internet and Facebook.

[12:46]

RZ Oh yeah!

PF Right?

RZ Yeah.

PF Right? Or even if they know the difference, they know there’s another thing —

RZ Well there’s Google — Google and Facebook is 90 percent of the internet as far as they are concerned.

PF But the reality is you get online and you’re — you’re using WhatsApp or Facebook for many, hundreds of millions of people online.

RZ Oh yeah.

PF That’s your mailbox, that’s your —

RZ That’s your communication means, dude, [that’s right] I mean this is it. [That’s not — yeah it’s how you ta — ] What else is there?

PF You talk with people all day.

RZ Yeah.

PF And that’s — that’s real. That doesn’t mean that that’s the internet. It just means that that’s the service that you use.

RZ I mean and the thing is that I could tell you about cool browser add ons that’ll protect you.

PF Yeah.

RZ Mozilla’s doing some really interesting work on that.

PF Yeah they have a — a container —

RZ They have an identities container. That’s right.

PF You actually can — so when you look at Facebook, it can’t — the rest of the web can’t see you.

[13:27]

RZ It’s really cool.

PF But you know — [exhales].

RZ But! There’s — there’s no plan on the phone.

PF Well here’s what —

RZ I can’t get the app on the phone.

PF You know what we’re seeing here is that there’s no . . . centralized controlling authority for all this stuff, right? Like people think that there’s might be order or like a governing body . . . but it doesn’t work that way. And what happened is you had this amazing document delivery system and as people were looking for more and more ways to make money from it they went, “Yeah but you know you can actually get software to run in the form of little JavaScript programs.”

RZ Yeah, yeah.

PF And then that kinda took over the documents . . .

RZ Yeah.

PF And individual, personalized experiences which everybody kind of assumed would be landing in your newspaper. That you would like get customized news delivered to you, and that was RSS, things like that. People were — a lot of people on the web were experimenting and playing with that stuff [yeah] and I’m not doing this as a history lesson because it repeats constantly. People were like, “Oh hey this new, cool sort of technology will be used for a positive effect in culture. We’ll use this to organize and make sense of all the information that people deal with day to day because it’s hard for people to have filters, and understand what’s really going on.

RZ Right.

PF And then that whole stack of [chuckles] technologies gets bought and moved into the world of online advertising where it’s able to be able to be deployed with much more efficacy.

RZ Yeah.

PF And, you know, for Johnson & Johnson who actually pay.

RZ Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

PF You know? And —

[14:49]

RZ And . . . look: they crossed the line because it — it blew up on the other side, right? Like there wouldn’t be headlines if Joh — if it turns out Johnson & Johnson was steering people who are looking for diapers over to creams.

PF Right.

RZ It just wouldn’t.

PF You know here’s — but also they’ve been doing it in — you know you can buy end caps, meaning books that appear right in the aisle at a Barnes & Noble.

RZ Yeah.

PF You can buy those and put — make sure your books are there.

RZ Yeah.

PF Right? Like Barnes & Noble is not this completely neutral book selling place where they [no] make decisions based on what’s the most valuable to their customers.

RZ No.

PF They are designed to move as many books as possible and make as much money as possible [yeah] and they have a lot of relationships that support that. At least that’s my understanding. So, you know, it’s the same with grocery stores and WalMart, they know and target, they know how you’re moving through. IKEA is a great example. It’s a maze. They built a labyrinth so that you —

RZ IKEA upsets me, man.

PF Yeah, you’re gonna buy as —

RZ I just wanna leave. “I got my thing. I got my lamp. How do I get outta here?”

PF You’re never gonna leave.

RZ I can’t. I was like, “Wait, you’re gonna make me look at 4,000 different plates and wine glasses? [What I love too is that — ] Just let me outta here!”

[15:56]

PF — when you escaped and then you have to go to the warehouse.

RZ It’s really weird, man.

PF You’re never done. There’s always — yeah.

RZ It really creeps me out.

PF It’s like — it’s like a history of industrial design. So um —

RZ I just feel like a rat.

PF You just wanna know where — yeah.

RZ I’m like — I’m like at Carnegie Mellon and they’re feeding me weird things and I [PF sighs] gotta make it outta the maze.

PF The thing with — with IKEA is you’re always like 40 minutes away from an exit. Like it’s not —

RZ Why doesn’t IKEA have a scandal? Facebook’s eating shit right now. Why? What about IKEA?

PF Oh, they kinda did. The founder died. He was a Nazi. So that was bad.

RZ Fine.

PF And he was affiliated with fascists. That’s — that’s bad.

RZ Is that true?

PF Oh yeah.

RZ Ok.

PF Yeah. And um also the entire IKEA is theoretically a giant not-for-profit foundation but it doesn’t give any —

RZ Oh it’s like a whole tax —

PF Yeah it doesn’t give any money away —

RZ — scheme.

PF And so, yeah. One of the richest men in the world.

[16:42]

RZ I gotta tell you though: for 180 bucks you can get a nice coffee table.

PF [Chuckles] The funny this is [RZ laughs] is like fascism aside, and its weird corporate structure aside —

RZ They’re good end tables, man [laughs].

PF I mean you show me one socialist in America who doesn’t have at least one, you know, Ingvaar.

RZ [Laughing] Oh my god.

PF That’s the problem, man. They get you. IKEA gets everybody.

RZ Right.

PF IKEA — it doesn’t matter —

RZ Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah.

PF You can belong to the Communist Party and you still have [you will go] like Billy bookshelves.

RZ [Laughs] But we diverge. Uh two questions for you to close this out —

PF Mmm.

RZ I wanna just highlight I tried to go in, I’m like, “I’m angry . . . I’m goin’ into Facebook.”

PF Mm hmm.

RZ And they used to have this like privacy dragon friend. He was like a wizard that helped you through like stuff. And I think they took that out unless I’m missing it somehow [PF chuckles]. Remember when they said, “We’re gonna give you a bunch of tools so the settings aren’t too bad.”

[17:34]

PF [Chuckling] What the hell is goin’ on in that interface though?

RZ Do you know what? It’s craziness.

PF [Laughing] You can’t! I mean it’s —

RZ It’s craziness.

PF [Laughing] As all we make fun of it as a giant, monolithic [yeah] privacy destroying pseudo-government [yeah, yeah], as a product it’s just an insane circus [yeah] of blu — it’s just this blue and white hellscape.

RZ Yeah. It’s — it’s rough. And so I go in there and I saw the list of apps that I’m connected to.

PF Oh.

RZ And it was like 150.

PF Oh it’s not good. I’ve gone in and pruned most of those in my life.

RZ You have?

PF Oh yeah.

RZ See, ok, I went in, I was like, “Alright, I’m not gonna be . . . screwed here. I’m gonna take these out.” And I’m scrolling through them. First of all, 40 percent are out of business.

PF Oh yeah.

RZ It’s just a bunch of stuff. I had one that said Whopper for Life and with the Burger King king guy was the icon.

PF You installed that.

RZ What the hell did I install?! I don’t have any —

PF You clicked a button somewhere on Facebook [I probably — ] and were like, “Hey! Check out the Whopper for Life app.”

RZ And then — and then here I am. And so I’m deleting these one . . . by —

[18:30]

PF When’s the last time you went to Burger King?

RZ I haven’t been to Burger King in 12 years.

PF Yeah.

RZ But I had this thing cuz I probably thought it was funny [yeah] or something. So I’m deleting all of these and you come to realize is you didn’t know that the lines were connected.

PF You didn’t —

RZ I thought, “Oh this is convenient. Facebook’s gonna let me sign up without having to sign up and then they’re gonna leave.”

PF Mm hmm.

RZ But it turns out nobody’s leaving and I’m a technologist! Can you imagine? I — I wanna go see my mom’s list.

PF Let me tell you something. So I — I have this thing Twitter . . . I used to belong to an image board website called Milkshake where you just po —

RZ Oh I remember Milkshake!

PF You posted images and sometimes —

RZ Milkshake’s fun.

PF Yeah and you would like and repost other people’s images. So think about —

RZ It’s gone.

PF Oh they made the code open source. So now there’s a open source alternative called Mltshp [pronounced Malt Shop], M-L-T-S-H-P, which has the same community.

RZ That name’s a little aggravating but go ahead.

PF It’s all good. So I downloaded my archive when it — when Milkshake shut down. So it’s like 7,000 pictures back to 2011.

[19:35]

RZ Oh weird.

PF Yeah. So I was like, “What am I gonna do with these?” So I made a bot that posts ’em about uh every four hours it posts another one to Twitter.

RZ I really like this bot. I will just say it’s consistently entertaining.

PF It’s called Archive Pics.

RZ Yeah. So, wait! So are you using Facebook to auth into this?

PF No! No, no, no. All I’m saying is that I have — so here’s this thing, I saved all these images, I was committed to this thing, I don’t remember a single, damn digital asset that I — I remember like four of these images out of 7,000.

RZ Right.

PF And this is like — I would — one of the ways that I flatter myself: I have a very good memory. It’s annoying to people who know me cuz I remember things that they forgot.

RZ Ok.

PF And I was thinking about that and — as you’re talking to me, I’m like, we assume that everything’s at hand and there’s kind of grab bag set of folders that follow us around and we have all of our emails and so on and so forth. What I’m finding is that —

RZ [Low tone:] Sprawl.

PF — your brain can’t fit all that stuff in.

RZ Of course.

PF 7,000 funny pictures. I mean, it’s [sure] — it’s wonderful cuz I go back and rediscover them but it’s not like this warm, nostalgic glow.

RZ Yeah.

PF I have no [chuckles] connection to most of the stuff in there [yeah]. And so if you told me that you had like 2,000 Facebook apps installed and no idea.

RZ Yeah.

[20:50]

PF It wouldn’t surprise me because it goes out of your head because there’s a huge, tidal wave of new things every five minutes.

RZ Of course, of course.

PF Right? And so it was kind of a long way around it to go like . . . This is something I created, curated, was invested in, that was kind of my community, spent a lot of time on, and then —

RZ It’s not yours.

PF I have no clue what’s in there!

RZ Of course. [Stammers] We’ve reached the limit, right? I have a Tumblr —

PF Mm hmm.

RZ — where I’ve stored away YouTube videos . . . for years! And I can go in there and like, you know, you could jump the pages in Tumblr?

PF Yeah.

RZ I have no idea . . . what — every so often, I’ll be like, “Oh! I remember that one.” But rarely do — first of all, most of them are broken.

PF Mm hmm.

RZ YouTube took ’em down. But mo — you know 80 percent I’m like, “Woah! That’s fresh and interesting.”

PF You know, I will say, in contrast, I remember everything I’ve written . . .

RZ Well, you’re sort of an egocentric person.

PF No. I mean I’ve written thousands of pieces at this point.

RZ Well, writing is a deep dive, right?

PF But that’s the thing, right? When you make something it gets into your head.

RZ Nobody’s making shit anymore, dude.

[21:51]

PF [Chuckling] I know, dude.

RZ They’re taking pictures of their nail — of their toe nails and putting it on Instagram [but people — ]. Nobody’s making anything.

PF I think people assume that consuming is a kind of making, right?

RZ [Scoffs] You come out of an ice cream shop and you — you have to put it on Instagram. And you gotta pause and think, “This is creativity now.” We eat shit on a daily basis, dude [PF laughs boisterously]. This is it.

PF I have to think —

RZ This. Is. It. Go do a watercolor about the ice cream you just — inspired by the new flavor you just tried, instead of taking a picture of you standing in front of an ice cream shop. This is where we are?

PF Well, listen: you’re an old man whining and I get that.

RZ Old man whining?

PF [Vocalizes groaning and moaning like an old man] Well, here, let me —

RZ It’s not that! I’m glad you did it! Congrats! Now go home and paint something!

PF Well it’s not just that. Here’s what’s fundamental: rather than go home and paint something, people want — they want that shortcut. “Look at the picture of the ice cream, isn’t it amazing?” And then they’re like, “Why don’t I get a hundred million likes?”

RZ Well there’s that, right? [Right] So they — they sit there and they look at the heart thing and they just lose their minds. Like, [in mock, whining tone] “Where’s — where’s the love? Where’s the love?” You came out of an ice cream shop! Who give a shit?

PF Well this is — this is how we’ve all lost our mind.

RZ Also, nobody knows how to use hashtags. It’s not hashtag — it’s not a hashtag. When you sit there and you see the sprawling pound sign words in — in a post. I’m like, “What are you doing?!? Nobody’s gonna look at that! What is that?” You know what I’m talking about it?

PF I have infinite empathy —

[23:11]

RZ It looks like graffiti.

PF [Deflated:] Yeah. I mean people wanna make stuff and they wanna make community. I think a lot of people just — they’re just passing their days but there is — there is the pretentious shot of the — you can’t go — I mean also we live in Brooklyn. I don’t know if they’re doing it so much at liek Baskin Robbins. Alright, is this your Can I Tell You?

RZ Oh shit, we could roll right into it.

PF Alright! So, Rich, [snickers] you just did it.

RZ I think we’re working — yeah, exactly.

PF Instagram hashtags.

RZ This is a recap!

PF Instagram hashtags are —

RZ Honestly it’s . . . here’s the thing: I like the idea of some pictures from Jim’s birthday, my uncle [yeah, sure]. I like the idea of sharing. That’s cuz you do that. You develop the film, and then you bring the photos out, and you show ’em to everyone, everybody’s smiles, right? . . . But when you come out of a shoe store and they didn’t have your size but the lighting feels right: go home!

PF Fair enough.

RZ That’s it!

PF You know what I think about a lot? [Roman history] I think that the Romans would’ve been all over social media.

RZ Probably. But they — at least they’d write little poems.

PF Oh no I mean that’s the thing though Caesar would’ve been all over it like Caesar wrote so many books about his conquest of Gaul.

RZ Ok . . .

[24:18]

PF And it’s all in the third person.

RZ Wow.

PF Yeah. It’s —

RZ See, that’s impressive!

PF He would be tweeting like a lunatic.

RZ That would get annoying. That would get annoying.

PF And then, you know, the other thing the Rom — the Romans would’ve been into is Instagram . . .

RZ Yeah! For sure.

PF Cuz I mean it’s just like, I mean it’s really —

RZ Yeah, but then the sculptors wouldn’t sculpt!

PF All about [snickers] — this is a good point. You do like —

RZ Well is my whole point with this is like go try something and fail, please.

PF This is the point: if they’d had Instagram, they wouldn’t have needed to sculpt.

RZ No! They would’ve done nothing! They would’ve done nothing. And if you think about it what we are creating today as sort of this reflection of culture, and society, is . . . on a server farm. Like what the hell are we gonna do with this 400–400 years from now? The point is we just stare at the Parthenon. Are we gonna stare at rows [that’s even further back] of hard drives?

PF [Inhales deeply] I, you know, it is fascinating to think about what the future —

RZ It’s shit!

PF — monuments are.

RZ It’s nothing. Can I just say we came into this pr — thinking we’re gonna provide insights on what’s happening with Facebook and the way forward? [Laughing] I think we ended up in a bad place.

[25:29]

PF I think the most valuable our — our discussions provide is to let the listener know that no one has any damn idea what’s going on [both laugh]. Right like —

RZ That’s the takeaway!

PF I — I really — cuz I — no, I feel this really profoundly cuz they’re — you know when you’re — when you’re younger, you assume that there is some system of the world and that everyone is aligned.

RZ Yeah, nobody knows anything.

PF No one knows a thing! Half the people on Facebook have — probably have no more information about the Facebook situation than we do.

RZ No, and Zuckerberg — can I just say eh like can I close it with Zuck — Zuckerberg? He creeps me out. The way he holds his hands out —

PF Mm hmm.

RZ It’s like there’s an imaginary dead cat in his hands [PF snickers]. I can’t — I can’t peg it, man. He freaks me out.

PF I don’t — you know it’s —

RZ It’s his face and his eyes. I’m — I’m — this is mean at this point but there’s something about ’em that scares me . . .

PF He doesn’t scare me. I just see him as someone who . . . had such an unbelievable success and his life, his adult life, the period at which you go from being like semi-conscious to fully conscious . . . [RZ chuckles] Literally, like when you’re 25, your brain kind of finally locks in.

RZ Yeah.

PF That experience for him was one of profound, total gratification and success at every minute [RZ laughs]. You and me were being roundly humiliated by life, rejected by everyone [oh!], but still doin’ really good.

RZ Eh we just assumed life was hard.

[26:55]

PF Well it’s not even hard. Like at 25 you had an apartment, you were figuring it out.

RZ Yeah.

PF Right. At 25 he was telling people that he didn’t wanna go on their private jet anymore, he’d go on his own. And —

RZ Right. Right, right, right. Different game.

PF Yeah. He had the whole world. And I just think like, “How does that make a human?” We know some very, very successful people. Ethics are hard to scale, life is hard to scale, when you become a —

RZ We’re allowed to say this: we’ve met a lot of billionaires.

PF We have met a lot of billionaires.

RZ And they’re all . . . exhausting.

PF No! Some of them aren’t.

RZ Uuuuuh.

PF Some of them aren’t but they do — they’re at an altitude of experience.

RZ They’re kinda weird, man. They just don’t know what to do [music fades in].

PF [Laughs] Well, any billionaires listening — um.

RZ They don’t what to do. Oh! By the way, any billionaire listening: Postlight is a tremendously talented design, engineering, architecture shop that builds incredibly efficient and highly scalable platforms.

PF Anyway, to our —

RZ Alright. What — what came out of this podcast is how to cope with Facebook [chuckles].

PF That’s right. Or not. Or whatever.

RZ Or not! Or not. And, you know what? Keep puttin’ those photos on Instagram. It’s all good.

PF Everything’s fine.

RZ Everything’s fine [music ramps up, plays for four seconds, fades out to end].