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Show Notes

Turning the universal mouse button on its head: This week, Paul and Rich discuss the importance of getting into new skills and unlearning old habits. We look at Rich’s new interest in Blender, how it’s led to him making a beautiful hotdog, and the time it takes to learn how to use a six button mouse (spoiler: it doesn’t take long). We talk about how the phone is the new computer and what that means for the future of the desktop. We also invite you all to attend our live podcast taping on April 11th at Postlight!

Transcript

Rich Ziade Blender, for years, the right mouse click was the left mouse click. 

Paul Ford Uh huh. 

RZ You selected a thing with the right mouse click. 

PF I always imagined that that—that’s how the British use mice [Rich laughs] [music fades in, plays alone for 18 seconds, ramps down]. So, Rich? 

RZ Yeah. 

PF People don’t know that we work shoulder-to-shoulder, literally. 

RZ Yeah. As well as figuratively. 

PF Yeah, but we are very close in space and sometimes I look over to the left [uh huh] and I see what you’re working on. Now, sometimes it’s a contract [music fades out]. 

RZ Uh huh. 

PF Sometimes it’s email. Very often it’s email. 

RZ Proposal. 

PF Sometimes you’re in our customer relationship manager. Client Relationship Manager, our CRM [Rich chuckles] but recently I’ve been looking over. I’m not spying, just walking by on my way [yeah] to get a cup of coffee. And your screen is taken over by an enormous grey space that is filled with roughly 400,000 digital buttons. 

RZ Yes. 

PF And another thing happened, which is that suddenly you’re using a six button mouse. 

RZ It is six button if you include the button that sits beneath the wheel.

PF Mm. 

RZ So it is a six button mouse. And it’s a damn good one too. 

PF What brand? 

RZ It’s a Logitech MX Anywhere 2S. 

PF You actually are bringing it with you wherever you go with the computer. 

[1:33]

RZ It—yes. It’s in my back pocket, walk around with it. It has that kind of weird . . . rubbery texture that is very satisfying to hold. 

PF Oh yeah. I get that. 

RZ You know? Don’t read into that. At all. 

PF What are you doing? 

RZ The—the—the program. And it is a beatiful program and it’s been an emotional connection for me over the last few days. It’s called Blender. 

PF What is Blender? 

RZ Blender is a free, and gosh, underline free here. 

PF Open source. 

RZ Open source piece of software that is for 3D modeling, rendering, and animation. First of all, it’s a work of art. I mean it’s—it’s utterly chaotic and, you know, what’s interesting—and I care deeply about a good user experience and a good interface—and it’s non-negotiable here. You’re just not—there is no simple path to what you’re trying to do with a tool like Blender. 

PF 3D is hard. I mean I’ve tried it 20 times in the last 20 years, I never really get anywhere. 

RZ It’s—it’s—it’s just a deep, deep pool and it’s incredibly complex and the controls even around spinning a box around are complex. So the idea of like, “Oh, we re-did it but it’s much more elegantly designed.” There’s no—there’s no way out. There is no simple user experience around this kind of a tool. It’s a heavy duty tool, right? 

PF It’s industrial. 

RZ It’s very industrial. 

PF Where did this start though? Like were you just kinda walkin’ along and went, “I think I should do some 3D rendering”? 

RZ You know I’ve always loved it. I—

PF You used to play with this stuff, right? 

[3:01]

RZ I used to play with this stuff. I used to be really into—this is many years ago—a piece of software called 3D Studio Max which is still a major, like, 3D rendering program—modelling program. And I was at a job and it was one of my first technology jobs and I said, “I have nothing to do,” and they said, “Well, we know work is coming.” 

PF “So you just need to hang out and use your computer.” 

RZ “Just use your computer.” [Yeah] And then my manager walked by and he saw—and it was actually one of the nicest moments I’ve ever had professionally—he saw a beautifully rendered hot dog on a plate [yeah] and I kid you not like there were sizzling like little beads on the hot dog. 

PF Oh you had really taken this seriously. 

RZ And I took it seriously. And, you know, and the bread was kinda fluffy. And I felt really proud of it. I—I had just bought one of those thick 3D Studio Max books. 

PF This was like 20 years ago. 

RZ This is like 20 years ago. And the guy walks by, he’s like, “What is that?!?” And you gotta keep in mind, I’m in there as an internet consultant [right]. Like the internet’s two years old and nobody’s sure what to do yet. 

PF First of all, it’s pretty exciting that the screens are color. Like that just happened. 

RZ It was a monitor [yeah]. It wasn’t an LCD screen [yeah]. So the guy said, “That’s really good.” He goes, “Um—[Paul laughs]”—he goes, “You know what, Rich? I don’t know you that well.” I’d been at this job maybe three months, four months [uh huh]. He goes, “I don’t know you that well but you could pretty much do whatever you want, you’d do it pretty well.” 

PF Awww! 

RZ And, you know, I gotta say—

PF You hadn’t heard that much in your life. 

RZ Well my dad was only throwing rolled newspapers at me. 

PF [Laughs] I mean that’s just not something you hear a lot, right? 

RZ You just don’t hear it a lot! 

[4:33]

PF Yeah. 

RZ And it—it felt nice [yeah]. Two weeks later I had to close 3D Studio Max and I pretty much never opened it again. 

PF Well I mean it was—it was probably good. Like you needed to work. You can’t just sit there and make the hot dog over and over. 

RZ I loved, you know, being a novice is a very attractive place for me to be. 

PF It’s really goo—it’s really—so you know, there’s a thing as your—as your co-founder here, you’re a person who gets really, really concerned and thoughtful about the state of the business at all times. 

RZ Uh huh. 

PF It’s just really—it’s like one of the great things about working with you is you’re worried and you see risks in ways that I never see them. 


RZ Thank you, Paul. 

PF No, it’s incredibly valuable. It’s not always the most pleasant thing. Sometimes I’m like, “Things are going good,” and I sit down and you look me in the eye and you say, “Dude, we’re screwed.” 

RZ [Laughs] Usually [Paul laughing] it’s when we’re doing well I say that. That’s the thing. 

PF And it’s actually very, very rare [yeah] that you relax and play. 

RZ It is very rare. I don’t even consider it play, I consider it like the gears turning in my head and—

PF Very soothing to do something—

RZ It’s very soothing. 

PF It’s also good to be—it’s good to be the idiot.

RZ It’s good to be the idiot. 

PF Yeah. 

[5:41]

RZ It’s a wonderful thing to be the idiot and—and I gotta—so the sequence was actually interesting because I could never play the way I am playing now [mm hmm]. If—I think you can even go back eight years, I couldn’t play the way I’m playing now. So I was like, “Ok, how do I even start?” Cuz I could not—I couldn’t like—I didn’t know how to left—Left click wasn’t left click [right]. It was a whole other game, [right] right? 

PF You know they did recently update Blender’s interface to be more accessible this way, just more consistent. 

RZ Yeah [yeah] but still. Like you have to understand—

PF Oh it’s—it’s vast. 

RZ Controlling a thing in Blender. Like there’s controlling an image on your computer—

PF So you look at Blender and it’s a million buttons and a wireframe thingamajig. Like a—[yes] like your hot dog [yes] or a plate or a sphere. 

RZ Yeah. The action’s usually one to two [yeah] today, in computers—and this is an interesting like sort of mental exercise around interfaces is the left click—the universal left click is action. 

PF Right. 

RZ Right? The action. The right click click is more actions. 

PF Right. 

RZ Is almost universally—

PF Left click: do it; right click: do some other stuff. 

RZ That’s right. And I think you could pretty much say that’s a sort of a global pattern that is pretty much everywhere. 

PF And then the middle mouse button, which is often also the scroll wheel, it’s a little bit of like, “Yeah, we’re gonna—we’ll do some things. We might scroll [correct]. We might select some text.” I don’t know. 

[7:02]

RZ So I get to this—this piece of software and I’ve got this 3D donut staring in front of me and here are the verbs that kick in. There is rotate around it to see it at different angles; there’s [k] take it and spin it around; take it and make it increase or decrease in size; take it and rotate it; and then there’s just me trying to like . . . look around. And so if you think about the puzzly here and I’m thinking, “Wow, they did this poorly.” As soon as I—I tried to do it, I was like, “They didn’t design this well.” And then you pause and think and you think about the complexities around it, it’s humbling [mm hmm] and it’s actually really cool to be inside of like—it’s like somebody—you know, a little kid is allowed to sit in the cockpit . . . of an airplane and see everything and it’s just—

PF It’s cuz what they’re saying to you is, “I know you know how to use a computer. You’ve seen this before but this piece of software’s different. And it’s gonna require to actually learn new skills and unlearn other skills.” 

RZ That’s right. There’s patterns and—

PF In order to rotate the donut in space.

RZ That’s right and so I said, “Ok, I’m not gonna go—” 

PF Now, at this stage, do you even have a goal? When you open this up? You just wanted to see the world. 

RZ I—I had a goal. 

PF Oh! 

RZ I actually had a goal. 

PF Do you—can you—can you share the goal? We haven’t talked about it. 

RZ I—I don’t wanna share the goal because it’s a surprise when it all reveals itself. 

PF [Crosstalks] But you wanna—you wanna make—you want to render something in 3D. I mean that’s the goal. 

RZ Yes. Yes. 

PF Ok. 

RZ That’s right. 

PF So you have a—and we should tell people about the logo. 

[8:16]

RZ [Under breath] Oh shit. 

PF No, this is a good thing! Every now and then Rich’ll take a day or two in Photoshop and take some well known logo and adapt it to be a Postlight logo and we put those on t-shirts. But, you know, we did one for a restaurant chain, and one is a well known brand of cigarettes and [they’re fun]—They’re fun.

RZ I think I’m done with those, by the way. 

PF Good. I mean that’s—we had a—you had a good run and we framed them and hung them up in the office [yes] and people are—potential clients are deeply confused by them which is fun. 

RZ They are. 

PF So, this instinct where you’re like, “I gotta make something,” and you kinda make it about the business. That’s where you work out other things about the business. 

RZ Yeah [stammers]—

PF It’s play. 

RZ I need to take a walk. Sometimes, and I do this often with you. I was like [yeah], “Let’s—let’s take a walk.” 

PF Oh cuz I’ll just sit until my body becomes part of the chair. I’ll be like, “Oh I gotta get this finished.” 

RZ And you just gotta get off the screen and just take a walk and these are really just taking walks. Like just—

PF I like—I grind and then reload Twitter. That’s when it’s just like, “Oh I wonder what else they’re saying?” 

RZ That’s a rough scene. 

PF “Oh you gotta get me. I gotta go walk down the stairs.” 

RZ See that’s rough. That’s rough. 

[9:12]

PF Shouldn’t be doing that. Should be walking down the street. Beautiful day. Ok. So, you’re in this universe, what have you learned? So, this is, I think, this is my favorite part of computers. Lemme—lemme say it. Like, when you enter this world of software, and I think that’s one of the things I love most about open source, it’s so confusing and alienating and all the rules are different. And it’s very easy to go, “I hate this.” This is what programming is like [mm hmm] when you start it. And it’s Photoshop can be this way; 3D is definitely this way; animation—media creation in general, the rules are different than they might be for like cutting and pasting and using a—

RZ Yes. 

PF And you go into this world and you are in, man. You don’t get to come out for awhile. You gotta figure this out. 

RZ Yeah. And—and it’s so sat—when you’re—if you’re willing to do the work in the beginning, and you turn that corner and you’re finally proficient, even in a minimal way, it’s a very good feeling. 

PF Well once you realize—you know what it is? It’s you know how to do it. Like, “Rotate the taurus.” Ok I’ll do it. 

RZ Yeah. I haven’t even created anything yet. I’m just like enjoying the ability to manipulate things that were very hard to manipulate an hour ago. 

PF So you’re learning; you’re playing; you’re clicking buttons; did you go out and buy a book? 

RZ I didn’t. I hit YouTube. And then, you know, just this wall of videos showed up, and I—

PF Especially cuz it’s a 3D program, right? So it’s video for people—yeah. 

RZ It’s a perfect sort of screen recorder teaching platform. 

PF Ok. 

RZ So, I find this guy named Blender Guru. 

PF Oh him!

RZ I’m glad [Paul laughing] he landed that name. And he’s got—I think I can safely say hundreds of videos [ok]. Like and it’s just him plowing through different ideas but he has this beginner series and when he kicks it off, he says it at the very beginning, he’s like, “I know what you wanna do, I know you wanna render that really shiny, glimmering staircase with the lights that shine on it.” He goes, “And I know you’ve been hitting a wall.” He goes, “And I know you’re anxious to go do that but it doesn’t work that way.” That’s like the first minute of the first beginner video. 

[11:10]

PF Which, frankly, is what you needed to hear. 

RZ Which is frankly what you needed to hear, right? 

PF Yeah. 

RZ And immediately he—he starts teaching, very quickly, and he’s joking around and what not. And he—as he sort of reveals how to use this thing, he ends every video with—he goes—by the end—oh in the beginning he gives you a summary of what you’re gonna learn. Sorry. Backing up. And he says, “At the end I’m gonna make it wiggle, for fun.” Just so he can get you to the end. He’s like, “Now that you’ve learned all of that, lemme show you a little trick,” and then he just does this one stupid, little trick and it feels like I got a piece of candy. 

PF Oh you got rewarded. So he’s a good teacher. 

RZ He’s a good teacher. 

PF Blender Guru. 

RZ His name’s Blender Guru. If you wanna learn it, go learn it from there. 

PF I mean he’s Blender Guru, what do you expect? 

RZ He’s Blender Guru. And in another world I would dive six months into this and come out the other end—

PF We—we can’t do that right now. 

RZ I’m not gonna do that right now. It’s not the right way to prioritize—

PF It’s not time for you to retire into your 3D rendering industry experience. 

RZ No, no. So I wanna make a few observations. 

PF Good. 

[12:10]

RZ I am a thriving capitalist. I’m—I don’t apologize about it. I think if you build a piece of software or a service and you’ve put your sweat in and you’ve taken that risk, you’re allowed to make money on that piece of software. So the open source movement has always been kinda this intriguing thing to me that I didn’t really think much about. I always—and I did go through a phase where I was like, “Well, that’s stupid”. 

PF Mm hmm. 

RZ But I got it. I understood it. And GitHub is a phenomena. I mean there’s no way around it [right]. And then you look at this platform, and the level of contribution, the level of generosity [yeah], and the work people are willing to put in to keep giving this thing oxygen and this is not—this is not a basic code—you know, piece of code—

PF It’s not ten web pages. 

RZ It’s not ten web pages and you could see and as I was digging, there are these proprietary file formats that have been reverse engineered so you can actually import them into Blender. It is just madness. And it is really something. It is really something because I think now you’re inside something way, way bigger. Like to me, that is just love. That is an expression of just love towards a thing. And it’s not—it’s not political, it’s not social, it’s just everyone just loves this thing [mm hmm] and they’re just gonna keep contributing to it. And Blender, for years, the right mouse click was the left mouse click. 

PF Uh huh. 

RZ You selected a thing with the right mouse click. 

PF I always imagined that that—that’s how the British use mice [Rich laughs]. Sorry. 

RZ That’s very strong. 

PF It’s cuz they drive on the other side of the road. I’m sorry, sorry—

RZ So, get this, Paul, it’s still one of the first things you do when you install Blender: you go into settings and you make the right mouse click left mouse click. 

PF Mm hmm. Mm hmm. 

RZ They haven’t changed it. And he starts to get into how the community defends the status quo of this thing. 

PF Sure. 

[14:06]

RZ Here’s another one: undo didn’t show up until a couple of years ago. Un! Un-flipping-do! 

PF Un-flipping-do. 

RZ Undo! In a 3D program! And what would happen is—

PF What would you do?!?

RZ Well, here’s the thing, he was talkin’ about the message boards and the discussions around this and people were adamant that if you’re a true artist, you can’t undo. 

PF That’s not real. 

RZ But it is real! I mean if a sculptor can’t undo. 

PF Yeah but that’s—it’s a digital med—ok. Why am I fighting with the imaginary message board? 

RZ Exactly. Exactly. But this was a real debate [oh boy] and discussion. 

PF This is fascinating though, right? Cuz people you’re seeing—and this is a risk with open source communities, they don’t have the pressure from commerce. They don’t—they don’t have the sales and marketing person saying, “Every time I tell somebody it’s right click instead of left click [that’s right] they tell me they don’t wanna work with this anymore and I just saw someone a 3D superstar [yup] because—and that thing’s a piece of crap but at least—they were tired of the way—” So like that conversation happens and finally people are like, “Fine! I’ll fix it.” And—but if you’re in an open source project, it’s much more about like what is our consensus? What are our goals? Who do we wanna build? And big voices can really get real loud. 

RZ Yeah, it’s not like this is our 2000th customer support ticket that we have to fix this issue [right]. It doesn’t work like that—there are people who take philosophical stances on the thing. 

PF I mean that’s what they’re engaging. They’re—they’re getting into it in order to solve and work these really complicated things out in their own brains [yes] and to contribute and be part of something that’s gonna live for awhile [yes] and so you take that away and you actually [music fades in] do take away a big part of the community, right? [Music plays alone for six seconds, ramps down]. Rich, you know, we always tell people that [music fades out] we’re a product studio and we build big digital things, right? 

[15:56]

RZ Yes. 

PF But that’s—it’s hard to get started that way if you’re not quite sure what your next steps are. 


RZ It is. It is. 

PF And so we created a new thing for our clients, it’s called Relay. 

RZ Yes. 

PF Do you wanna tell people what Relay does? 

RZ Yeah. In—in—by the way, before I do, there is a podcast with our design leaders at Postlight, Skylar and Matt, where they talk about Relay in depth. So you should go check that out. It’s actually a really good discussion. Relay is a ten-day design sprint where we sit down with you, and by ‘we’ I mean product design and a little bit of engineering actually peeks in [mm hmm] and talk about what you’re going after. Then we go away for a little bit, come up with some ideas, come back to you, sit down again, beat that up, and then go away again. And then by the end of it, you get an interactive prototype, a thing you can click, as well as a deck that sort of tells the story of whatever we came up with. 

PF So if you’re trying to prove out an idea inside of your big company or [yes] you wanna do a startup, and you don’t—you want some guidance and some thinking as to what you’re really gonna be building, this is a two-week path to get you that much, much further along. We need about two days of your time and then we’ll take it from there. And we’re glad to talk about what the outcome looks like and how to make this really work for you [music fades in]. So [email protected], let us know if you wanna talk about Relay [music plays alone for six seconds, ramps down]. So, ok, so—so the left mouse click, the undo [music fades out]. 

RZ The left mouse click is still to—like he’s like, “One of the first things we’re gonna do, you’re gonna go into your settings and we’re gonna make the left mouse click the left mouse click.” 

PF Wow. 

RZ And that was like step one of Blender. And, you know, I—you get the sense there’s adoption and there’s usage and what not and I think what happens with these kinds of projects—and, again, this is me as like an anthropologist observing this open source movement [right] it literally is a movement, is that people start to get defensive and start to protect the thing in irrational ways. Like it’s almost like this isn’t about the community, this is about the nation state that is this thing, and how you can’t—even any sort of change, even if long term is for the better, people defend against it. 

PF Well, the infighting is really brutal too because there’s no—again, there’s no external forcing function necessarily. Like somebody—if somebody just doesn’t wanna do it and believes that it’s the wrong way to do it, they can fork the code, they can go home, and that’s—that’s actually built into the culture, that you have that flexibility. 

[18:22]

RZ Yes, exactly. 

PF There’s an interesting book. I need to—I think I’ll get the title right, it’s The Architecture of Open Source Applications. It’s available online, like I remember reading—it covers some of this stuff but just there’s a—there’s a structure with building things in the commons with community both contributing and then you often have like a core team. I’m sure Blender has like that one core team [yes]. Python does; EngineX does. Sometimes they’re companies [mm hmm] and then working with outside contributors. We just released something open source and it—the quality just keeps going up and up. This [it’s great] Postlight Mercury parser. 

RZ People are reacting to that and what not. 

PF But we’re the core team. We are. Like we are—we’re the owners of this thing [yeah]. Now somebody could fork it and say, “I’m—it’s now called, you know, Froglight Markury.” And we’re gonna [yeah] go, “Ok.” Like there’s nothing we can do. 

RZ “Goodluck.” Yeah, yeah, yeah. 

PF But for now, everyone has agreed that it’s better that we control it but they get to contribute changes and [yeah] as long as we continue to accept and respond that—that tends to be pretty stable. 

RZ Yes. Yes. 

PF So that’s—that’s Blender too. But then there’s—but it’s been around for a long time.

RZ Blender? 

PF Yeah. 

RZ Is that true? 

[19:22]

PF Oh yeah—

RZ I don’t know how long it’s been around. 

PF Oh Blender’s been around more than a decade. 

RZ Is that true? 

PF It was an inhouse 3D development tool for, I think, you know like a Netherlands or Finnish production company of some kind—

RZ And they just put it out. 

PF And they’re like—they didn’t—yeah, I mean, suddenly you have this giant piece of intellectual property [yeah] called Blender and, you know, what are you gonna do with it?

RZ Yeah. 

PF You don’t wanna go—it’s a big thing to compete and continue to ship and release software. So they put it—they made it open source instead. 

RZ Right. What it makes me think about is, you know, I think 90 percent of our traffic to our website is on the phone. 

PF Sure. 

RZ Or 80 percent is on the phone. I think 80 percent of people’s time is staring at their phone or whatever. There’s all these stats. 

PF No, that’s the computer. 

RZ That is the computer and I, you know, I guess one of the things that kinda stresses me out is what’s happened to the computer in terms of engaging that platform versus what it used to be. I mean this is a professional desktop tool, and the web is the web, but the ability to sort of put out that killer thing on that computer—cuz it is the computer now. Like I’m an edgecase. I’m gonna become an edgecase using a desktop or a laptop. 

PF Look, I—I think about this a lot. First of all: the—the mobile phone or the tablet are increasingly getting powerful enough to do things like 3D rendering. Blender’s a stretch on a phone. It uses the whole computer. 

RZ Yes. 

[20:45]

PF 3D is a lot but even so—

RZ Uh, related to that, just a small aside: a 700 dollar shit Window laptop will power Blender better than a 3,000 dollar Mac. 

PF Yeah [sighing] I’m not surprised. 

RZ With like an embedded Nvidia or whatever—

PF [Crosstalks] Intel, Nvidia, yeah. 

RZ Yeah. So. 

PF I mean, so maybe eventually it’ll work out that way but I think this is very real in that apps in software for many years, if you were—and—and this is definitely through piracy cuz you couldn’t spend 500 dollars every time you wanted to learn something new. 

RZ Yeah. 

PF But if you were a motivated person, you could get a piece of software and you could sit in your room, and you could beat your head against it until you figured out what it was trying to tell you and what it was trying to let you do. And so you get 3D Max and you learn how to make the hot dog. I, over Christmas, not too long, we had—we had the week off and I went and downloaded this thing called Net Logo that I’ve been playing with on and off for years and it’s a little programming environment that lets you run simulations. It’s a little programming language that lets you write those simulations and then it gives you sliders and tools. 

RZ Ok. 

PF And it also does like classic systems theory modeling about stocks and flows where you’re building up a system—I tried to model out the company and like because we have a system where marketing [interesting]; branding brings people in; and that generates—

RZ Whaddya learn? 

PF I learned a new way of thinking, you know, related to reading the systems theory book. I—I learned that this was a pretty deep pool. It’s a little more California woo woo than I normally think about the world—


RZ [Stammers] You went to go play. I mean, you went and you learned a sort of—some new ways of thinking and you said, “Oh cuz here’s a tool that actually lets me act—act on that.” 

[22:29]

PF Here’s the thing, man: it’s not about the tool. It’s about the framework that it gives you for perceiving and doing other things, right like [right], now granted, if you wanted to 3D, you’re gonna go back to Blender. If I wanna do simulation modelling, I’m gonna go back to Net Logo but I now know that that’s a toolkit. That’s a thing that I can use to solve problems in the world. 

RZ Yeah. 

PF You wanna make a certain kind of image or do a certain kind of thing. 

RZ Here’s a thing I wanna highlight, and I think this kind of brings it all together, you didn’t go lookin’ for that tool on the app store. 

PF No! That’s not where that is! And that’s the thing like this is—it’s been around for a long time and it runs in Java and it runs in the web. I will say I think there are more things like this on the web and that’s gonna get better and better. You know a good example is observable HQ which is a kind of dynamic environment for making Javascript powered notebooks. There’s also—so the notebook world. Jupityr is one spelled with a ‘y’: Jup-ih-ter. Which is a Python based notebook. It’s very programmer specific, right? But like [ah] these things, you go in and they give you a little box to type your code but then they also—they’re dynamic live notebooks so then they pop up the bar chart or the results or the rotating 3D sphere and then you can continue to program down the chain. So you go like: a little code; results. And then: a little; results. And that’s a really impressive and interesting way of learning. The science—the world of like scientific discourse, and especially around like data science is very into these because you talk to the database, you see it, and it’s—So I think there are ways—that works fine in a web browser, what’s gonna happen maybe is that the web gives you access to variou, you know, knowledge systems and you could maybe make new documents and ideas out of that. But, yeah, on your app? There’s some learning games. There are things like that. But it’s not the same as, “I’m gonna figure out how 3D really works”. 

RZ I—I gotta say and I’m gonna probably come out of this world now and maybe never come back, for all I know. 

PF Uh, you know, every year or two—

RZ Every year or two—

PF You’ll open up Blender. 

[24:25]

RZ I’ll open up Blender. But I gotta say it felt really good. A lot of my interaction with technology is very negative. It’s very—[stammers] I mean I’ll go right into saying mean and [yeah]—and adversarial and angry and making a—I mean email exchange [yeah]; Twitter! A lot of these—and it’s not—the technology’s obviously just the medium, it’s just—it’s just the—the tool but I was in this place—

PF We’re often defensive because it’s all this communication and you’re like, “What do they need now?” 

RZ Yeah. 

PF Right? 

RZ Yeah, and most of the things you hear about YouTube it’s about who they banned [yeah] and—and meanwhile I go into this community and there are thousands like it where it’s just outpouring of just generous knowledge that’s [oh it contains—] just being given—

PF It contains multitudes and this is tricky because if you acknowledge that suddenly people are like, “Yeah, yeah! But!” 

RZ Yeah, exactly. 

PF But it’s like, “Well, no, but also it—I went and learned Blender from it.” 

RZ That’s right! 

PF And it’s important to note that because that’s what, you know, 15-years-olds would rather do that than read a textbook and then we’re all like, “Well! Now! Hold on a minute there!” 

RZ “Gotta read that book!” 

PF It’s just never how it’s—it’s never going back in the box. 

RZ It’s never going back in the box but there is, you know, there is a context with which it’s really, really positive. You see this incredible thing that’s been built; you see people who wanna help you learn; and it’s just—I mean I’m gonna go ahead and say it, it’s gonna sound creepy but it’s quiet space! 

PF Yeah. 

RZ I’m in Blender. I’m not in like—I’m not, you know, hearing all this chatter and noise and—and derision and anger and—

[25:57]

PF It’s not just that. You’re free to fail. You’re not actually [yeah] free to fail when you run our company [yeah]. Me neither. I can’t fail as CEO of Postlight. You can’t fail as President. And if you do, it’s a serious thing that affects other people’s lives. 

RZ Correct. 

PF God! It’s wonderful to just be in an environment in which you can completely screw up and [yeah] be an idiot. [Yeah, exactly] I—I look at you—I look over your shoulder and I’m like, “You don’t have any idea what you’re doin’”. And that’s—

RZ I stared at it for like an hour and a half. 

PF It looks wonderful. I—that’s what I remember: that experience of like, “I can’t make the weird, declarative [mm hmm] language work to make the sheep eat the wolf.” 

RZ Yeah. 

PF Right? And, boy, is that joy. 

RZ Yeah. 

PF And it’s a strange thing to admit but like that joy of total ignorance with no consequences. 

RZ Oh! It’s—it’s—it’s lovely. 

PF Now that I’m a parent and now that I’m a boss, I don’t get that as much. 

RZ Not a lot of opportunity for it. And there’s not a lot of opportunity to get judged. I mean [yeah!] that’s the other bit of it: I’m alone. Like [yeah] I can actually look like a schmuck. 

PF Nobody cares what you do. 

RZ Nobody cares what you do. 

PF You’re gonna decide. That is, I think, the thing like instead of your every—you know you got little kids and you go and  you say them and they’re like, “Hey, what’s going on? What do you got for me now? Like I need your love and your attention.” You got this company that’s growing and thriving and requires lots of attention and—and stuff [yeah]. You can’t just be like, “Well, I dunno what I’m doing! [Yeah [chuckles]] Yeah, well, you know, guys! We’re gonna figure it out as we go!” I’ve tried that. I’ve said that out loud. It is not what employees wanna hear. 

RZ No. 

[27:19]

PF No. They don’t wanna say, “We’re gonna figure this out.” [Both laugh] They want a plan! And, God, of course they do! God bless, right? And it’s just you’re in zone with no frickin’ plan. Nothin’. 

RZ It’s lovely. 

PF You don’t know what you’re doing. 

RZ You know Blender obviously has a plugin framework that you can [sure]—you can create add-ons for. I’m gonna create an add-on that every time you fail to select the object [yeah], it tweets it out. 

PF Ah! That’s [Rich laughs] perfect. That’s perfect [Rich laughing]. No, I—

RZ There’s a lot of good out there, Paul! It’s—it feels good—it’s—

PF Let’s celebrate all the cheerful nerds who made a 3D program that you can download and play with—

RZ It’s a beautiful thing. 

PF And it’s for free because they want it to exist in perpetuity as a tool so that you can learn this and do things with it. 

RZ And, of course, above all else, get that six button mouse. 

PF Yeah, it’s good! I have one—

RZ It’s key. 

PF I have a six button mouse. Feels good. 

RZ It’s got the wheel—it’s just—I’m not a gamer but, man, that feels serious. 

PF No, you’re just precise. 

RZ Yeah. 

PF Precise. 

[28:20]

RZ Look: I’m all in. I got probably 80 Apple devices in my house, and everything’s slick and smooth and has one button and the mouse looks like a piece of like taffy that got stretched out. 

PF There’s a few zones like this. Like I mean, sound synthesis; 3D; video editing; there these enormous piles of slightly messy open source tools [yeah] that are just wonderful. 

RZ A lot of fun. 

PF And this is also—people get into the Raspberry Pi and the Ada—Adafruit objects and the—the BeagleBone and all these like hardware hacking things I think are the same—that’s—when people talk about the Raspberry Pi which is a little 35 dollar computer that is a real computer, a lot of times they talk about it in terms of it connected them back to what they really liked and enjoyed about technology. 

RZ Sure. 

PF You go in and you administer a server [yeah] which is what—that’s the fun of the Raspberry Pi [yeah]. But it’s fun cuz it’s little. 

RZ And we both have kids. 

PF Yeah. 

RZ And my kids just go to app stores and look around like, “Can I have this?” And “Can I have that?” And, man, I want them to be in that. There’s a great startup called Little Bits. 

PF Yeah! 

RZ That is essentially these sort of little sort of robotic bits that you can plug together and program and—and do software stuff with—

PF The real problem, right? Is that—we’re talking about these big systems but you learn this stuff by taking things apart. 

RZ Right. 

PF You know? There’s a moment—

RZ It’s not clean. It’s not smooth and it’s not packaged up. 

[29:43]

PF There’s a moment in every nerd’s life where you go, “I fixed it.” And it could be IKEA furniture. It doesn’t have to be tech. 

RZ It’s a great feeling. 

PF And you’re just like, “I used a screwdriver and duct tape and I turned the bicycle wheel 200 different ways and then I—I figured it out.” 

RZ Oh yeah, it’s great. 

PF That’s the best feeling in the world. 

RZ It is. 

PF So I’m excited to see what you make with 3D. 

RZ I will reveal it to you, Paul. 

PF I’m looking forward to the big unveil. 

RZ I went really deep and then I had to walk it back and so I’m rethinking what I can possibly pull off. 

PF I’m happy [music fades in]. I’m happy to see you take a couple days and just explore something weird. 

RZ [Chuckles] That was a lot of fun, Paul. I felt like an old man talkin’ to another old man. 

PF No! I think that people—everybody learns about the world through software these days. 

RZ Yeah, which is—yeah, but I feel like the—the loudest signals are the shit end of the world, coming in through software. 

PF Right. 

RZ So I think there is just such great stuff happening out there and if you could go live in those—those—those—those fiefdoms of cool shit that’s happening it’s so cool. I’m gonna make sure my kids do it. Like I’m [yeah]—my kids wanna play on the iPad and I’m very militant about giving them not too much time but there gonna a world where they’re gonna actually mess around with that stuff. 

PF They need to learn how to take things apart and play. 

RZ Yeah. 

PF And just if—if—if they don’t wanna do that for their career, that’s fine, but they should know that things are made of other things. 

RZ Yes. Well said, Paul. 

PF Alright, let’s get outta here. 

RZ Have a wonderful week, everyone. 

PF [email protected] Bye! [Music ramps up, plays alone for five seconds, fades out to end.]