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Show Notes

Catering to the masses: On this week’s episode of Track Changes, Paul and Rich sit down to discuss the mess that is app stores. We chat about how the race to produce more and more content and why trying to cater to as wide an audience as possible is making for frustrating user experience. We also discuss our dreams of getting rid of in-app micro-purchases and the need for better app reviews.

Transcript

Paul Ford Suddenly I sound like [pronounces /w/ in Werner with labio-velar approximant—or an English /w/ sound] Werner Herzog. 

Rich Ziade What are you talking about? 

PF [Accented] “I subscribed to apps.” 

RZ I think it’s [pronounces “W” as /v/] Werner.

PF I’m sure it is [music plays alone for 16 seconds, ramps down]. Did you notice that Apple had this thing called Apple Arcade that they announced? 

RZ I subscribed to that! 

PF Ok, how is that? 

RZ It’s ok. 

PF You got a lot of games now. 

RZ It’s a lot of games. I don’t have to make the purchase decision. There’s nothing more annoying than, “Hey! That was a really good gun, wasn’t it?!? You wanna [music fades out] buy another gun?! It’s a dollar.” 

PF Yeah, exactly. And we don’t even need to explain what that means. It’s just in-app purchases are garbage. 

RZ It’s garbage! 

PF And then there’s another one on the Google side called Google Play Pass. 

RZ Oh, is there another one? I didn’t know there was a Google one. 

PF Yeah, yeah, it’s like two bucks a month right now and it’s 300 apps and a lot of them are games. So it’s your Monument Valley and Cut the Rope but with unlimited magnets. 

RZ Wow. 

PF Yeah, that’s exciting. 

RZ I mean, that’s a weekend right there. 

PF It’s literally, you know, it’s like 49 dollars that you don’t have to spend . . . to play—be the frog that cut the rope—

[1:12]

RZ Yeah, it’s worth noting: these are games that maybe are not cutting edge. They’re a little dated. They kind of cashed out— you know, they maxed them out in terms of the revenue they can get in purchase and what not and then they hand them over to Google or Apple to put ‘em in the box, right? It’s Netflix for apps. I mean that’s what we’re talking about. 

PF That’s exactly what we’re talking about. And, you know, let’s talk just for a second about how you get there. You get there because app stores are absolute garbage fires. 

RZ I think there’s another motivation for the likes of an Apple . . . in terms of getting there. There’s a lot of Apple in my house. 

PF Boy is there—

RZ There’s a lot. There’s an Apple TV, there’s a couple of iPads. 

PF Listeners, I’ve been to his house. You’re gonna find little Apple logos where you least expect them. 

RZ I mean a toilet should not have an Apple logo on it. 

PF No, I know, but yours does for some reason. 

RZ Yeah, it’s very special. 

PF It doesn’t flush or have any plumbing but it looks great. 

RZ [Laughs] Let me fast forward, here’s where I think the world’s going and then I wanna hear your theory. 

PF Ok. 

RZ As to why this all happened—which is the app stores are a mess which I agree with you, by the way. And that is that eventually a content is the biggest feature you can offer to differentiate your platform. 

PF If there are other platforms that compete and they can roughly aligned with you, that’s always gonna be true, right? Cuz I love my iPhone; I love my Pixel. Let’s say ‘love’ is the wrong word but I enjoy consuming both of those devices. It’s just not that much difference anymore. 

[2:34]

RZ There was a day when the Android had a little bit of a lag on your thumb but they’re pretty good now. 

PF Oh yeah. People couldn’t wait to get on The Verge and talk about that stuff [Rich starts to laugh]. Now it’s just like, “Wow, this one’s really good. This one’s really good too.” 

RZ Yup. 

PF “This one’s from Samsung is also really good.” 

RZ That’s right. 

PF Yup, they’re all really good. 

RZ And so, now I’m at a point where, “Ok—” First off, iCloud is massive. It’s probably Apple’s fastest growing business, I think, or something like that.” 

PF Oh, who knows? I mean they probably have ten fastest growing businesses. 

RZ I pay two dollars a month just for them to hold my pictures. 

PF Yeah, yeah, it’s convenient. 

RZ So I’ve got that. I’ve got Apple TV at home which also pulls up my pictures. So if I wanna look at the holiday pictures, I can. If I’m Apple Music, I’ve got my music in that one account. I’ve got now shows and TV—Apple’s producing television. They’re creating content. 

PF Isn’t it a little depressing that they can take all your information and inspect the faces and so on but ultimately it just gets delivered to you back as a screensaver. 

RZ You’re no more interesting than a screensaver! 

PF Yeah—

RZ That’s what you’re saying. 

PF You can search by your mother-in-law’s face . . . and that’s cool. 

RZ Yeah. 

PF And then you can see all the pictures of your mother-in-law but, you know—And, if you want, you can have these bad boys up on Apple TV or look through ‘em on your phone . . . and that’s cool. 

[3:44]

RZ So, I think you’re left with a choice. As a Product Strategist at Apple you’re saying, “You know what? I probably can create that camera. It’s gonna cost a billion dollars or I can hire Jennifer Aniston to make a mediocre TV show that I can put exclusively on Apple to pull people into our orbit. 

PF The thing with Apple is like why not both? 

RZ ‘Why not both?’ is very real, isn’t it? 

PF Yeah, alright [chuckles]—

RZ I mean—

PF A Product Strategist at that level at Apple, can you imagine? First of all, what do you think they—do you think they have to use Pages in-house? 

RZ I just imagine a budget approval . . . for anything. 

PF Do you think that Apple could run on numbers? That’s—

RZ I don’t think Apple cares. 

PF No, I know. I hope not. I hope not. Cuz seriously, if they’re runnin’ that company on Numbers, it’s actually probably worth like 40 million dollars now. Nobody [Rich starts laughing] knew how to update the spreadsheets and we’ve all been lied to. 

RZ [Laughs] That’s messed up. Numbers is cool. 

PF Oh yeah, Numbers is really cool. Unless you wanna do spreadsheet work. 

RZ Oh, I have a close Kwanned friend—when I mention Numbers, he gets really angry at me. 

PF [Laughs] Numbers is enraging! 

RZ Numbers is a little enraging. 


PF Yeah, yeah. 

RZ It’s a little enraging. 

PF Like it’s not—anyway, sorry, go. 

[4:41]

RZ Anyway, fastforwarding: just to end my spiel here: I think you’ll pay 20, 30 dollars a month, maybe 40 dollars a month, and you will get some games; some music; some television. 

PF Oh yeah. Like See—that post-apocalyptic narrative or The Morning Show one. Those look so great. I’m so excited. 

RZ It’s not good! It’s not good, right?

PF [Chuckling] It’s not good. I think Apple is like, “Oh crap, we have like a billion users. We have to make something that appeals to a billion people.” 

RZ Yeah. 

PF Which isn’t actually—If you—Look: Netflix doesn’t do that. 

RZ No. 

PF Netflix is like, “We’re just gonna jam it in niche [chuckles, Rich laughs], wherever it fits. Oh hey, you know, zombie apocalypse World War II. Whatever.”

RZ Dude, I’m getting—Somethin’ happened with my Netflix. I can just—I clicked around, maybe—I must—or my kids got hold of it and now all I get is Isreali thrillers. 

PF That’s kinda good, though, Isreali thrillers are good. 

RZ They’re pretty good! But—

PF Yeah, Isrealis make good movies.  

RZ I think, eventually, you can only cram so many cameras on a phone . . . I think you can only do so much with the pixels on the screen. 

PF Well, look! I mean it’s just—there is no hockey stick of features and growth and excitement left in mobile. 

RZ There’s probably some R&D that’s gonna blow our minds in five—maybe the folding—We’ve been trying to fold a phone for three years now. 

[5:50]

PF You know what I’m excited about though? If I could get a TV sent to me in like a poster canister, like a roll-up TV. That would be wicked cool. 

RZ You know what would be cooler? You send me the TV. It comes in a little, tiny box. 

PF Uh huh. 

RZ But it comes with a blower, like the one you get when you buy an inflatable mattress. 

PF Oh like an air mattress! Vvvvvvv [ascending]. 

RZ Yeah, yeah! Except you’re gonna blow up your TV. 

PF Yeah it’s not—but the sound bar is a problem then. 

RZ We’re doing—[Laughs] We’re doin’ it wrong with the folding! 

PF I’m telling you—

RZ Inflating is the way to go. 

PF Inflating is good. Rolling could be really good though. Cuz you know why I don’t buy a bigger TV right now? 

RZ Mm? 

PF It’s just a pain in the ass. 

RZ What do you mean? 

PF I got a nice TV at home. We bought it when our kids were born. It’s about eight years old and it’s starting to get—I think one of my children might’ve thrown—

RZ Is Postlight paying you enough? 

PF Well that’s a different discussion [Rich laughs]. We’re gonna—we’re gonna talk about that after. It’s end of year review time [Rich laughs]. CEOs get nervous. You think you can get one long pixel down the left of the TV? 

[6:40]

RZ I don’t know what you’re talking about, Paul, because I don’t live like an animal. 

PF I do—No, cuz [Rich laughing] I look at them. I’m like, “I don’t wanna get . . .” I mean the thing draws like seven washing machines worth of energy just to watch Paw Patrol

RZ What’s the brand? 

PF Oh. Samsung. 

RZ I thought you were gonna say RCA. 

PF Nah! No. 

RZ Ok. 

PF We should tell a quick story here. When we first were moving into this office, 101 5th Avenue, somebody was like, “Hey, let’s get—we got a lot of really good screens. They’re very high quality. They’re Vizio brand.” V-I-Z-I-O. 

RZ Yes! 

PF And this was one of the few times where I pulled rank. And I just was like, “You can’t do that. You can’t—” 

RZ But explain why. 

PF Because a client comes in and they’re gonna give you a lot of money to build their software, and you turn on the TV to do a little presentation—

RZ It can’t say Vizio. [Chuckling] You can’t have it say, “Vizio.” 

PF It says, “Vizio,” and then it lets you login to your Yahoo Mail. [Rich laughs boisterously] Ok? It’s Samsung, it’s Sharp, it’s LG. 

RZ No. No, even Sharp is a little downmarket. 

PF LG you can do. 

RZ LG you can do. 

PF But it’s Samsung. If you go to any consulting firm because we don’t want you to think, “Well, they really cheaped out on the TVs, huh?” 

RZ Yeah. 

[7:49]

PF Cuz the Vizio’s the one you see when you go and visit your parents. 

RZ This is the same rationale around our address to be perfectly frank. 

PF Right? Yeah. 

RZ I mean we decided—

PF We all live in Brooklyn. 

RZ We could’ve been ten blocks north and paid a lot less money for rent. 

PF Yeah, we wouldn’t have gotten the clients we got. 

RZ Probably wouldn’t have gotten the clients we got. 

PF It’s tricky. Manhattan is an ecosystem, just like Apple is. I know we’re gettin’ scrambled here but like, there’s a trillion dollars of real estate in New York City. 

RZ Is that true? Or are you just saying—

PF No, it’s a trillion. It’s between 800 billion and 1.2 trillion. 

RZ That’s incredible. 

PF And that’s an older number. It’s probably bigger now. Like, five years old. Apple’s worth around a trillion dollars. Which would you rather own? 

RZ I’d probably have a lot less exhausting HR issues if I just owned the damn real estate? [Laughs boisterously]

PF [Chuckles] Can you imagine? Right? At least you don’t have to do that keynote? Can you imagine the real estate keynote every year? “Hey, yeah, well, we’re doing real good downtown.” 

RZ [In Queens accent] “Lemme talk to you about Kew Gardens!” 

PF [Laughing] Yeah! 

RZ “Kew Gardens has not been lit up in a long, long time!” 

PF “I’ve got 30,000 square feet that would be amazing for you.” I think that probably longer term, like as a long—I’d rather own the New York City real estate. 

[8:53]

RZ For sure! It’s also more interesting! 

PF Even with global warming. 

RZ Ugh! 

PF These are the things—

RZ Let me tell you something. That one trillion dollars is just one large white slab. 

PF I know! 

RZ [Laughing] That’s all that money is! 

PF I know. 

RZ It’s like, oh it’s in Ireland. It’s not that it’s in Ireland. It’s inside of a white slab that’s in Ireland. That’s where that money is. 

PF No, it’s just Tim Cook has his army of gold soldiers that he pets [Rich laughs]. Um—

RZ Alright! 

PF Alright, back to app stores. We went way off. 

RZ I guess what I’m trying to say is the idea of making micro-purchase decisions, I think, is gonna give way to, I live here now. 

PF Yeah! 

RZ I live in the Apple world. I get music; I get television; I get games. I get all the stuff. 

PF Basically the transaction you enter into with a giant internet company. So the FANG, you know, Facebook, Apple, Amazon, what’s the ‘n’?

RZ Netflix? 

[9:40]

PF Maybe. Geez. Google. I dunno. 

RZ That’s weird. Wait, where’d you read this acronym now? 

PF There’s FANG—

RZ Who let you on the internet this morning? 

PF I always forget Microsoft. Don’t forget Microsoft with all their acronyms. It should be FANMGA—regardless, your relationship with these things is like how exhausted am I willing to be? And so what’s happening—they created an utterly exhausting software purchasing experience. 

RZ Paul, it’s nice to not have to go digging. It’s nice to try stuff. I probably delete 70 or 80% of the apps I download. 

PF Mm hmm. 

RZ I try ‘em for a minute. I’m like, “Well, that’s a stupid game, why would the car be on the roof of a house rather than on the road?” 

PF Silly. 

RZ Silly. I delete it. I just try it and I delete it. The problem is: if you look at those stars and scroll. Three and a half stars, what’s goin’ on down there? God! It’s a bad scene. 

PF It’s like YouTube comments, like anything it’s just people who have powerful opinions but not a goddamn bit of wit—just plowing their senseless lives into the rating bucket underneath. 

RZ But there’s a lot! It’s intense. And you could tell that this isn’t someone just trying to be helpful. 

PF It’s just people with axes to grind. 

RZ Yeah. 

PF The aggregate of humanity is extremely frickin’ average, which is something that, in our industry, we often—[Rich whistles from high to low, like a bomb] No, but it’s real, right? We’re like, “Oh, we gotta listen to the users!” And you do and they are a gift and bugs are a gift and people telling you how you screwed up are a gift. I believe that very firmly but taken in aggregate, it is incredibly average. And so if you are trying to serve the average of humanity like Apple is. Apple’s like, “We gotta get in there, man!” If Apple said you can’t buy an iPhone unless you have a 130 IQ, we’re in big trouble. 

[11:17]

RZ Of course. 

PF That’s like a 40 dollar company. 

RZ Absolutely. 

PF So, Apple is like, “Whatever is gonna get us closer to the mean [laughing] is just fine by us. Let’s see what they all want. Give ‘em their voice. Good.” They outsourced all of that anxiety and frustration onto the app developers. Like, “Here, we’ll ruin your lives but you’ll get to make some money.” 

RZ Yeah. 

PF And it just became the world’s worst flea market in a lot of ways. 

RZ I mean it is, right? And—

PF Not the world’s worst but it’s just hard. You can’t—it’s just a mess. You go in there—Now they’ve hired a bunch of editors to make sense of it, and those people don’t know [chuckles], they’re like, “I used to be at a good magazine, now I’m here at Apple. I make a lot of money.” They’re just like, “I guess I’m somewhere.” 

RZ Right. 

PF No one knows what the hell they’re supposed to do. 

RZ No and I think there are two categories of apps. There are apps that simply go on your phone when you set it up. They’re just gonna go on your phone. There’s no way around it. 

PF Like a weather app. 

RZ A weather app—The handful of social media apps you’re gonna use. If you travel a lot, you’re gonna have like, you know, ones that track flight times and [right, right, right] check-ins. 

PF Mutual fund. 

[12:19]

RZ Your finances. These are things that are just—they’re the housekeeping things that are just gonna come right back on. 

PF Yup. 

RZ And then everybody else is trying to kinda wave their arms and say, [high pitched] “Look at me! I can do something interesting on your phone.” 

PF And then the games. I mean the unbelievable amount of time that human beings spend playing games on their phone. 

RZ It’s staggering. 

PF Right? And so it’s—that’s just a huge surface. Let me get in there and have my app. 

RZ Do you seek out stuff that you can pay for out of the gate? 

PF Absolutely. But the problem is you go out and search for it—

RZ It’s hard to find. 

PF So you’re in the crappy app store ecosystem where everything is approaching a sort of soft, blurry average and people are all just kinda miserable. And then you go out into the web where it’s just like ranked nonsense with ads stuffed everywhere on top of it. And you’re like, “I can’t win. Like I can’t.” You know, you search like ‘top paid Android apps’ and the site that comes up doesn’t tell you anything, it’s just a bunch of—it’s a database call. And then you get situations too where like, Google doesn’t have good filters. There’s like Elsa from Frozen pregnancy delivery apps that your kids see and wanna download. 

RZ Wait, seriously? 

PF I’m serious. I had to have a serious conversation with my daughter and she’s like, “Nah, I didn’t really open it. I don’t wanna play with it. I thought it was Frozen.” 

RZ She was searching on her Chromebook? 

PF Yeah! On Android and like I got filters on. I got all sorts of stuff going and we keep a pretty close eye but, you know, they have minutes of freedom and then suddenly someone’s delivering a baby out of Elsa’s uterus . . . in a game. 

[13:42]

RZ Wait, let’s give it a good, long pause after that statement. 

PF [Laughs wheezily] I just don’t wanna live in the world anymore sometimes. [Rich laughs] And then you’re like—[stammers] you know, we banned YouTube. Like what’s next? 

RZ Let’s give ‘em something constructive. This is a hard one. 

PF This is a big world now. 

RZ Well I wanna talk to two different audiences. 

PF Ok. 

RZ I wanna talk to the people that make the apps, for a second. 

PF Ok. 

RZ I think they’re, frankly, chained to their desks. Some of these games are incredibly sophis—I mean it is a full-blown game console. 

PF “Make another game with candy! Make another”—you know. 

RZ “Make their tires wear out after the first race. We need a dollar for the next race.” 

PF Do you realize how many somebody just has to like look at a bowl of Skittles. They’re not allowed to eat it, they just have to make the game feel like that. 

RZ [Chortles] Not enough cherry. 

PF Yeah. 

RZ So, look, there are business drivers around why this world is what it is now. Apple, who actually owns—essentially lords over this world, and Google too—could’ve said, “Don’t be slimy with your purchases.” 

PF “Sorry we’re just gonna reject that app.” 

RZ Let me go absolutely nuclear: no more in-app purchases. 

PF Ooh! 

RZ You wanna sell something? Sell it. 

[14:49]

PF Yeah but then how does Apple get 30% of every transaction? 

RZ When they sell the app. 

PF But they already get that. No, no—

RZ No, no. The apps free. 

PF I know but you’re taking away their chance to double dip. 

RZ Alright, so they’re making money on the in-app purchases. 

PF Yeah, [chuckling] no, no, no. 

RZ This is why it’s the nuclear option: it’s never gonna happen. 

PF That’s the thing, right? Like Candy Crush, that money goes back to Apple. 

RZ It’s never gonna happen! It’s just never gonna happen, right? So that’s out the window and so what you have is this economy that’s been created, that is gonna exist. There is a point when I’m scrolling down Netflix and there’s rows and rows of those shows, I get to these weird places. 

PF Oh yeah. 

RZ And next thing you know, I’m watching a romantic comedy that’s, first off, French and from the seventies. 

PF I like the part of Netflix where you get down to it and it’s just nouns like, “Cats.” [Both laugh

RZ They’ve just given up. 

PF “The story of the sweater!” 

RZ Yeah. 

PF And you’re like, “Oh, I never really thought about sweaters. I’m really tired.” This is the thing: they’ve created this system and now you have these subscription services where they’re like, “Don’t look over there. We tidied this all up for you. Give us a little more money. And you don’t have to deal with all that mess. We will create a curated experience and ship it to your house every month.” Just like every other startup in the last five years. 

[15:50]

RZ Alright, so then, let’s be constructive, Paul. What can the user do? 

PF This is what’s tricky: I feel that this is one of those places where the user is just kinda gettin’ screwed. There’s no good websites [interesting]; the app stores—the motivations—

RZ Pause on that for a second. This is very true: if you type in ‘best to-do app’ [makes descending trumpet sound]. You get these weird listicle—

PF Well cuz it’s free content to create. And you just put ads on it that promote the list apps. So you need the consumer reports; you need the like, “Here’s a review.” And this is—younger listeners won’t remember but you used to read—someone would write a thousand words on how a piece of software worked. 

RZ A long review. 

PF And you would—because you were paying four or five hundred dollars. 

RZ Absolutely. 

PF Here’s what I think matters—

RZ Even game reviews which were 50 bucks. You read those reviews. 

PF Here’s the thing: we’ve gotten in this place where everything’s cheap and sort of looks like a lozenge and we just don’t seem to care anymore but we do! It’s the time. I don’t care if it’s three dollars. I don’t care if it’s 30 dollars, in terms of buying the app, I wanna know what’s in there and if I should go ahead and do it or not. And I can’t get that information. And so I don’t wanna be like, [raspy, old man voice] “Oh, in the old days it was better.” Those—you know, there was a lot of like weird quid pro quo stuff and so on—

RZ Yup. 

PF But it does feel like . . . somebody could write a really good—like almost a zine, like, “Great apps to play with your kids.” I’d pay money for that. You know who locks this down real good? And then we complain about it but we mostly accept it? . . . Nintendo. There’s some weird stuff on that store but not a lot. The Switch, you’re like, “Mm—
 

RZ It’s all money. 

PF Yeah, that’s right. 

RZ Even if it’s two dollars, it’s all money. Also there is a great site, by the way, that does write good exhaustive reviews. The game consoles get good reviews. 

PF Yeah, that’s true. Gaming does. 

[17:29]

RZ There’s a lot of ‘em. Nintendo Life which is a very well-known Nintendo website writes minimum six, 700 words on any given game, and then if you go on YouTube, you can find a ten-minute well edited video by someone who probably has a day job reviewing these games. It’s actually incredibly impressive. 

PF Well, no, and you’ll see anything with—Like Death Stranding came out. I don’t have a console but I was curious what everybody was talking about. And then you go watch and there’s like four Kotaku videos explaining everything you could ever need to know about that game. 

RZ It’s really cool. And I think it exists that way and I think that integrity exists around it because you pay first. 

PF It does. 

RZ It’s not a junkyard, it’s not, to your point, a flea market. 

PF Well, it’s tricky. The game journalism is filled with junk and quid quo pro stuff and sort of all sorts of shenanigans. It just has been but somebody does tend to write a forthright review somewhere along the line. Or like The New York Times will cover it. 

RZ Yeah. 

PF What’s hard is—You know, like I want someone to have empathy for me as a user. I wanna create—I want a to-do app that does a few interesting things. 

RZ Shameless plug: Wirecutter which I trust for a lot of physical things. 

PF They have a good model here. They figured it out. 

RZ They figured it out and they do this for apps. They actually do. If you go and look up ‘best to-do app wirecutter’—

PF The Verge has good reviews too. 

[18:37]

RZ The Verge has good reviews. 

PF I guess what I’m saying is that we live—

RZ You’re—this is a hat tip to publishing. So, if you’re a user out there, you’re saying, “Go find the well editorialized stuff.” 

PF This is the function of service oriented journalism! Is it would help you be a good guide to this world. The thing is is like any one of those properties is nowhere near enough cuz there’s so much stuff that you do. So to me I’m like—I’m waiting for that moment, when somebody goes, “You know what? Wait a minute, there’s actually a vast, like there’s stories to tell here. 

RZ Should you not download the free game with in-app purchases? 

PF You can do whatever the hell you want. I just—like it’s hard with kids. I like to see my kids play games for a little while. They’re fun; it helps their brains reset. 

RZ I think so. 

PF But then, suddenly, you know, an ad for like some crappy word scramble game pops up. 

RZ Yup. 

PF And they will sit there and watch that for 20 seconds and they’re—my kids—we get mail to the home. 

RZ Are you talking about those mini movies that kick in in the middle of the game? 

PF Uh huh. We get mail to the home and they’ll be like, “Dad, I think we have to send 50 dollars to The Zoological Society.” And I’m like, “No, buddy, that’s a direct mail piece. Like that’s not how that works.” But they can’t tell! They feel [interesting] that they gotta kinda follow the rules. And advertising sets up the rules. And as they grow up, I wanna teach them to take that stuff apart and sort of pick at it cuz they’re never gonna be able to escape it. 

RZ So, two plugs for kids. We always try to be helpful here. That’s why we’re good. We’re generous in what we do. 

PF Hmm! 

RZ If your kids or four or younger, there’s a wonderful series called Sago Mini. S-A-G-O Mini. 

[19:57]

PF Hmm. Oh you’ve talked about this. You like this for iOS. 

RZ iOS. Really, really well done, very interactive. They’re not noisy. There’s none of that nonsense that you’re describing. They cost money but they’re good. What they are about are like simple interactions, like feedback, essentially touches a thing causes another thing to happen. There’s no game; there’s no losing; it’s just—you can go and make, you know, serve ice cream into a cone. And kids love it. Khan Academy Kids—

PF Yeah, that thing’s great. 

RZ—is great also. It’s trying to solve the world’s biggest problem is the only challenge for it. It’s like my kid is seven and he’s way ahead of the settings—like it asks you some question like, “Are you seven?” And that’s a hell of a question to ask to decide how hard the game should be [yeah yeah] and he’s utterly bored with it and I don’t know how to—whatever but it’s great and it’s totally free. It’s like completely subsidized by Khan Academy and it’s really, really good. Beyond that, there are a couple of games around building. They’re sort of like—you ever see like Farm Simulator? [Laughs wheezily

PF Sure. 

RZ It’s essentially, “You better get the feed out to the pigs and stuff like that.” 

PF Well, and Minecraft is great too. 

RZ Minecraft is really good. There are games that are just—like you could tell that they’re improving cognitively, like, they’re not stupid; they’re not gratuitous . . . in what they’re trying to do. They’re out there. And they’re actually good. Actually—I’m not of the belief that like, “Zero iPad, go read a book.” 

PF No, no, no, no. I want them to play—If they aren’t reading then I have a problem. 

RZ They should be reading more than they should be on the iPad. 

PF They’re reading more and they are very, very active outside, and so I’m like—what it is for us is it’s replaced Saturday morning cartoons. Right? Like they can get up and have a little time with their Chromebooks—

RZ Ok. 

PF On Saturday morning and then after that it’s done. Sunday morning too depending if mom and dad want to sleep in. 

[21:40]

RZ You’re right, I mean, the kids side of it is tricky. You wanna be smart about it, right? I mean that’s—

PF I’m just more and more aware of it. You know, I spend all of my time in four apps. Kindle and Email—

RZ And Twitter. 

PF Yeah, cuz I’m old and bored. 

RZ Yeah. 

PF And boring. Sorry. 

RZ You’re not boring, you’re very interesting. You’re Paul Ford! 

PF I’m worried though! I think as I’m getting—I’m gettin’ a little more boring. We gotta work on this. 

RZ Uh, we can cause some trouble! 

PF Well, I think we’re gonna get sales trued up and then I’m gonna spend more time just kinda walkin’ around thinkin’ some thoughts. That’s my goal. 

RZ Nothin’ wrong with that. 

PF Nothin’ wrong with that and then—cuz I gotta get interesting again. 

RZ You are interesting, Paul. 

PF No, I need new thoughts and new ideas in my brains. 

RZ Ok. 

PF Well, you know what, Rich? We should let people know—we might—there’s some changes coming to Track Changes. 

RZ Oh! Exciting ones?!?

PF Good changes, I think. The relationship between Track Changes and Postlight is confusing and so on. So we’re working all that out. I just like to tell people up ahead of time that like, things gonna change.

[22:30]

RZ Interesting. Ok. Good head’s up. We’re a generous, kind podcast. 

PF People don’t like change. You know what I know about this audience? They’re well above average. 

RZ Can I quote Ovid to end this podcast? 

PF Awkwardly, yes. 

RZ “All things change, nothing perishes.” 

PF That’s unfortunate sometimes but it’s probably true. 

RZ This is Track Changes, the official podcast of Postlight. We are a digital product studio based in New York City. We do product strategy; design; engineering—

PF [Crosstalk] Hold on a minute. Hold on a minute. We do—

RZ All kinds of wonderful—

PF—great product work. We build platforms [woah!] and we love it every day! 

RZ We do and it’s a great group, a lot of talented people and we’d love to talk. 

PF Life has ups and downs but one thing is steady and that is that software remains pretty awesome [music fades in]. 

RZ Boy, does it. 

PF I still love it. What app do you wanna build? See, the problem is deep down, everybody wants to build a to-do app. I know that. I know that about myself and—

RZ I have really good ideas about how to improve [Paul laughing] a to-do app. I wanna end the podcast on that! I don’t wanna don’t wanna get into this. 

PF Everybody thinks that they now have the secret to productivity. 

RZ Yes. 

PF You know what the best to-do app would be? 

RZ What?

PF It would erase your to-do app. 

RZ Ok. 

PF You just have to start over from first—You know, this is what we need to build: the thing that our audience wants and what the world needs . . . is a to-do app construction kit that allows you to build any number of to-do apps but has a common data model. 

RZ Yeah. 

PF So that no one ever actually puts anything into the to-do, they just simply continually modify—

RZ The to-do app. 

PF The way that it manages like, projects and subprojects and—

RZ Sounds utterly depressing. 

PF And it’s totally real though. Like we just—it’s like an Asana generator. 

RZ Oh God. 

PF And the best is you can hit a button and have a random to-do app—

RZ It’s like pinball construction set.

PF That’s exactly it! But for sad, like—

RZ For to-do apps. 

PF For people who are convinced that they’ll be more productive if only they make the checkbox a little rounder

RZ Sounds utterly depressing. 

PF It sounds completely real. Alright, everybody. 

RZ Have a lovely week. 

PF hello@postlight.com. 

RZ Buh-bye [music ramps up, plays alone for four seconds, fades out to end].