Get in touch

Show Notes

Is this really necessary?: This week Paul and Rich sit down to discuss the current culture surrounding software updates. Are constant software updates necessary? Are they improving the user experience or complicating it? We chat about our love/hate relationship with updates and get to hear Paul compare Spotify to a shapeshifting witch!

Transcript

Paul Ford Does it matter—

Rich Ziade Of course of not! 

PF—the interface to Spotify looks like?!

RZ No, no. I think—I think it’s gonna—

PF I would use if it was a little dog that ran around and said, “Hey, new Ariana Grande. Ruff ruff!” [Music fades in, plays alone for 18 seconds, ramps down]. 

RZ Paul, I—you can’t see this on the podcast if you’re listening cuz we don’t have video. 

PF Thank God! 

RZ But this is—I’m gonna scroll for Paul, these are the Facebook app updates. 

PF It’s the same, they just cut and paste. It’s like [yeah] whenever your Mac wants to update—

RZ But I’m going back six months ago. It’s [sure] the exact [sure] same text. 

PF “We update this app regularly.” 

RZ Yes. So, I think this a fascinating commentary both on software and—[music fades out]

PF Well Facebook updates like once a week, right?

RZ Many do. And each has their own stock phrase—well, first of all, let’s talk about updates. You don’t update anymore. 

PF No, like, you don’t go download software—

RZ There was a day. 

PF Yeah, where you would go get like a zip file or it would do it for you. 

RZ Even in the App Store there was a time where it wouldn’t automatically do it. 

PF That’s right. 

RZ It would just say, “Do you want to do it?” And I miss that option, Paul. 

PF Oh you miss being able to opt in? 

RZ Yeah. 

[1:11]

PF I’m so tired—everything is—everything about a computer is like a toddler stamping [sic] its foot. 

RZ What does that mean? 

PF Just meaning that like even the little icons on the bottom of your Mac [hopping] when it’s open and they hop [yeah] and it’s like, you know, you don’t up—you don’t—Your phone is like, “Hey, I got some updates for you. Got some updates for you.” This is a thing that the web is good at. Everybody’s like, [nasally] “Well, the web does this ba dap—” When a web—when web software updates, you know what you do? 

RZ What? 

PF Not a damned thing. You go to the webpage and it kinda works. 

RZ Well, no, to make—to defend this [mm] you don’t do a damned thing on your phone either. That’s not my issue. 

PF Yeah, but they’re always changin’ your stuff. 

RZ Stop touching the shit. 

PF That’s the thing, just, everybody—I mean—

RZ Stop. Touching it. [Yeah] Just leave it alone. It’s hard enough to get software to a good place [no]. It really is hard enough to get soft—

PF You know a good example? Gmail. 

RZ Gmail put out like a sort of—

PF Gmail—there’s about two years of the 800 years of Gmail’s development where the work was meaningful and made Gmail a better product. 

RZ Yeah. 

PF And then there’s 136 years—there’s probably like 50,000 human years of labor that really should never have been done. 

RZ Just stuff that didn’t need to happen, made it worse. Arguably made it worse; arguably made it better. Recently it had like a face lift. Like Gmail had the equivalent [here’s—] of a lip injection. 

[2:21]

PF You know a good sign for me that everyone’s lost their mind? 

RZ Hmm. 

PF Loading screens on webpages. 

RZ That’s a thing now. 

PF You go to Gmail and it gives you a little—a little envelope and the envelope does a little dance while you’re—

RZ I kinda like the envelope. 

PF Yeah, while your quad-core-super-mega computer [Rich laughs] loads Javascript, right? They couldn’t—this is Google, they couldn’t make a webpage that shows me my email and then figure all the other stuff out in the background? They gotta do a little dance? It’s like before you go to a show. 

RZ Dude, that—they probably spent about 300,000 dollars on that animation. 

PF I know it’s like dancing girls. I don’t need it. 

RZ By the way, Postlight’s available for services [yeah]. If you wanna animate an envelope [fine] opening and closing or a little car going from the left to the right of your screen. We’re—we’re making discount pricing available. 

PF I’m so tired of it, too. It’s like I go to the theatre Ibsen’s Enemy of the People, serious play, what does Google do? That’s what my email is, my email is like a serious Ibsen play that I cannot—

RZ Oh you gotta drop like a fancy playwright reference now. 

PF This is [under his breath] one of the most famous playwrights ever. Don’t worry about it. Don’t worry about it. 

RZ I know, A Doll’s House, right? 

PF Yeah, exact—My God! See, there you go!

RZ See, I know some shit. Yeah. 

PF Everybody knows it. I used a common reference. 

[3:29]

RZ Alright! So, here’s—here’s the thing, look [Paul chuckling], let’s categorize, Paul. 

PF No, no, but what I’m saying is—

RZ Sometimes there’s bugs. [Sometimes] Sometimes it’s like, “Oh shit.” 

PF No, not sometimes. There’s always bugs. 

RZ There’s always bugs! 

PF There are always bugs. 

RZ Fix the bug! My problem is when you thought you were making an enhancement . . . here is the thing: when people [Paul sighs] use your thing all the time constantly [mm hmm], it gets embedded into muscle memory, right? And even though it’s maybe a little slightly flawed, your thumb learns this little dance routine. 

PF No, I know. 

RZ That just knows how to do it. 

PF Yeah, but this is what happens: ok, great, you went in a store and you bought a hammer. That’s really good but it’s a digital hammer. And there’s 150,000 people who were working on it in—in Mountain View, California. 

RZ But it—it’s working. 

PF It doesn’t matter, Rich, because what your hammer needs is a rubber chicken strapped to the top of it. Because otherwise I don’t have a job! I don’t get to feed my family, as the person in charge of putting rubber—rubber chickens on top of hammers. 

RZ I mean look it’s worth talking about, why keep—

PF You gotta bring me your hammer! 

RZ Here’s the thing: as a business person . . .

PF Why do you keep touching it? Because I have a job. 

[4:29]

RZ Why wouldn’t I look at—at all this touching [mm hmm] like it seems gratuitous to keep touching that software [mm hmm] and say, “What are you doing? Can we create better value somewhere else? Why are you touching the thing?” 

PF Because these are cultures. These are—are like groups of human beings and cohorts that are mutually reinforcing, right? Your workin’ on Gmail. You’re workin’ on [Rich clears his throat] whatever—on the Facebook app. 

RZ Yup. 

PF Are you really gonna turn to your per—the person to the left of you? Let’s say you’re working on like ad optimization strategies or making the little loading screen better or improving search quality, even though search just is never gonna work really on Gmail because Google isn’t really a search company. Do you turn to the person on your left and go, “God! Nothin’ I’m doin’ makes a difference. I’m gonna go work at a coffee shop.” 

RZ I—I don’t understand the question. 

PF You would never say that, would you? 

RZ No. 

PF No, you’d say, “I have to make the best possible loading screen I can because I’ve been told it’s important to the product.” 

RZ No, but, ok, let’s go—let’s actually pick up a couple examples cuz it sounds like we’re just bitching here, ok? Apple—I—I love my Apple TV. It’s really good. It’s fast. [You’ve talked about it] I’ve tried—I’ve tried the Chrome—

PF It’s your third child. 

RZ—Chrome TV [sic—Chromecast?] sort of janky shot at it—

PF You gotta get a Roku! Roku is like—doesn’t even know what it is half the time. 

RZ Roku is—

PF Even the name. 

RZ It’s like an old van. 

PF I bought a Super Ro—It is [Rich chuckling]! Roky is like a seventies van. I bought a Super Roku, like one of the good ones. 

[5:53]

RZ What—what—what’s the difference? 

PF It has an animated—

RZ It animates. That’s all the difference.

PF No, no, no. It has an aquarium screensaver. 

RZ That’s not bad. 

PF It’s really good, actually—

RZ I would take that actually. 

PF And it’s 3D and it’s done by the same guy who used to do like old school Amiga pixel art. 

RZ You know that’s—that’s a special place in our hearts. 

PF And—in my heart—and the person in charge of, I think, in charge of the OS like low-level stuff on the Roku is Carl Sassenrath who was one of the original Amiga people. So it’s like—

RZ Ok, so, look: you’re an edge case consumer—

PF I don’t think anyone else has ever bought a Roku [no, no] for these reasons. 

RZ Alright, so recently, Apple updates what’s called the Apple TV Remote. And this is a cool thing. Here’s how it works, Paul, if you have your phone, you don’t need your remote. You can swipe down to like your mission panel or whatever it’s called [sure], it has a little remote button and you can all of a sudden have access to your Apple TV. Works beautifully. In like half a second, I’m getting to my Apple TV with my phone. 

PF Ah! That’s so exci—I’m so happy for you. 

RZ An update comes out, they sorta polished up the interface a bit, so it looks a little different but they changed one thing. 

PF What did they change?

[6:55]

RZ I have to pick which Apple TV I want to control. 

PF How many Apple TVs do you have? 

RZ I have one. Because I’m a normal person. 

PF But what are you picking from? 

RZ I’m not an Apple executive with four—

PF What are you picking from? You have to like click a button and then it drops ‘em down? 

RZ Yeah, I’ll show you—Yeah, exactly. 

PF But if there’s only one it doesn’t auto-pick it? 

RZ No. 

PF Ok. They need to go to The Hague and be tried for war crimes. That’s terrible. 

RZ No, and this—this is based on an update that came out a month ago. 

PF Yeah, remember that battery pack they made? 

RZ Why would you do that? 

PF Remember when they made that battery pack for your iPhone? 

RZ The battery—oh like the little hump on the back? It still exists, Paul. 

PF Yeah, it looked like the . . . Hunchback of Notre Dame. 

RZ It’s kinda weird, right? [Chuckles] [Yeah] I don’t know how that one got through. 

PF Yeah. 

RZ Anyway, that’s—that’s a special case where the edgecase won. [Because] Somehow someone somewhere along the way—

PF Oh cuz everyone at Apple has 12 Apple TVs. 

RZ That’s the thing! 

PF Yeah. Yeah, yeah. 

[7:38]

RZ That’s the thing, they’ve got seven of ‘em at home. It’s like, “I can’t live with this. How do I know which one I’m controlling?” 

PF “This has been driving me crazy for years. I’m so glad we finally did it.” 

RZ [Laughing] “For me!” 

PF Yeah, for me. Well, no, cuz everybody has this problem. 

RZ So, change it back, Apple, if you—if you don’t mind. Or! Put some logic in! I detected one Apple TV on the Wi-Fi—

PF What do you think—

RZ Is that not hard? Is that hard? 

PF There are two Apple employees listening. Demographically, there have to be . . . two Apple employees listening to this podcast. This is what they—they hear and then they go, “Heh heh.” [Laughing with Rich] That’s—that’s their entire—Whoever you are, we wish you well and we can hear you out there going, “Heh. Heh.” [Rich laughs] Because they don’t care because—

RZ They—that’s not true. I think they do care. I’ll tell you why: I think Apple TV has a wonderful source of lock in. I don’t know how I would move to Android considering how it all flows for me right now. 

PF Sure. No, look: they’ll think it through and if enough people complain—the thing about Apple is it just pretends that users aren’t real and—but then like eight million people whine and they go, “Ok.” That said, man, I don’t know what’s going on! Because they used to make computers and laptops that were good . . . and now they don’t. 

RZ Well, there used to be—I mean, there was a day you had to—first of all, video games are the best. There was a day that your video game console [yeah] didn’t have wi—connectivity [yeah]. Zero. When you had to go and press three million DVDs or CDs [oh yeah!] for Playstation 2. 

PF For Playstation 1 games. The risk involved. 

[9:01]

RZ It had to be airtight. 

PF There was no service pack. 

RZ It had to be airtight. Even Microsoft Word used to—it worked. But the updates. Sometimes you’d get this stack of discs [oh yeah] that you had to run through to get a full update of Word out. So the pressure to do it right, and to not only do it right, and by right I don’t just mean bug free. 

PF Can you imagine, too, like—like Nintendo, “Oh boy, we released a game and Mario isn’t wearing pants. We made a silly error and everybody’s like, ‘Oh Nintendo, you’re so quirky!’” 

RZ Yeah. 

PF But Sony Playstation like Gran Turismo, the card is purple instead of pink. 

RZ Yeah. 

PF People will come to your house and kill your family. 

RZ They will drive their cars into your house. 

PF Yeah! 

RZ It will not work. So I think this isn’t just about bugs, I think this is also about features and kind of forcing that constraint so that you’re thinking through, “Ok well this good. This is good now. Leave it alone. This is good.” I opened Facebook once and for whatever reason they added the ability for me to sell whatever extra vegetables I had in my kitchen. 

PF Absolutely necessary. 

RZ It was the most bizarre thing—I couldn’t spell anything all of a sudden. 

PF Those 35 people—six months, 35 people. 

RZ I think more! 

PF Yeah, right? 

RZ Probably a couple hundred people and then they killed it like two months later, right? 

[10:08]

PF This is, I think, what’s actually very tricky with the giant software platforms is it used to take four trillion people to do anything. Like Windows—like the Microsoft Word ribbon probably took the entire state of Oregon, you know, two years—or Washington [yeah] and Oregon. But I actually—you know like a seven person team can ship something at Facebook now. 

RZ I think that’s true. 

PF And it can ship something significant and I don’t think—the giant platforms you used to be able to go like, “Well, you know, if 500 people are workin’ on it, it’s better—gonna be good.” 

RZ Yup. 

PF But now it’s like, “Woah! We got continuous integration, we can keep shippin’ software. It’s velocity.” 

RZ There’s another you can do. There’s another thing they can do: they can test it just on New Zealand. 

PF That’s right! 

RZ See how it goes. 

PF That’s right. 

RZ Like that’s something that they have real control over. I wanna spend the rest of this podcast talking about one company, Paul. 

PF Which company is that—

RZ—Because there is one company that represents the most extreme abuse of constant touching, and that is—Well! Lemme—lemme—lemme reveal the company I’m talking about through the release notes for our recent updates. “We’re always making changes and improvements to Spotify [Paul laughs]. To make sure you don’t miss a thing, just keep [Paul cackles] your updates turned on. Bug fixes and improvements in this version include: fixed performance issues.” [Laughs]

PF Yup. 

[11:21]

RZ This is a lie, Paul. And, by the way, I’m showing Paul again that every single update has the same text. 

PF I use Spotify everyday for hours. It is like being married to a shape shifting witch. 

RZ I think I opened it up once and it was just symbols. There was no actual English language and—

PF You never know what’s gonna happen! You’re like, “Oh, here—hey, my playlists are here.” And they go, “Heh! [Laughing maniacally] Well. No, no, no, no.” 

RZ As we’re listening to this podcast—and they’ll fix it soon. But as we’re listening to this podcast right now, for whatever reason my offline listening has stopped working—

PF Oh, of course. 

RZ—on the train. Um, [of course it has] there’s offline listening so if you’re not connected you can keep listening to music. It’s all broken now [yeah] because they did something. 

PF Spotify is like one SQL [pronounced “sequel”] query [Rich laughs] . . . over a giant database of music, that has been turned into the abuse of a relationship of trust. 

RZ There is a part of me that envies their willingness to just keep fucking around. Keep screwing around. 

PF Select artist by name, [chuckling] semicolon. 

RZ [Laughs] It is ama—it’s pretty amazing: I think—I don’t know the exact architecture. I think the whole thing is just layers of Javascript. I think. 

PF Well, I don’t know about on desktop. On web that’s true. On like on desktop web yes. And it is. Or at least up until recently it was lots of different teams owning different parts and then they would glue all—

RZ They have a very particular model around how they’re willing to just move software through [yeah], try it, give it a go. But, holy hell! For the user, it is something. 

PF It really is. 

RZ It really is something else. 

[12:50]

PF I think what’s wild is, is that mobile changes so rapidly. And you can—But also, I use the app so much—

RZ Yeah. 

PF—that it’s this intense and surreal relationship that I have with no other app that I use, where I just don’t know what the hell’s going on. And they kill features, too! That’s the other thing: it’s not just like [oh!] the purely—it’s not like the old Microsoft model where it’s like, “Keep going.” 

RZ—there’s some dashboard [no]. There’s some dashboard called like the “Easy Listening Dashboard”. 

PF Oh God you used to be able to hit a button and hear a preview of a song. You know what I love? I love looking through new releases and seeing what’s new. Just—I just enjoy that.

RZ In the notes? 

PF No, no. In “Music” in Spotify. 

RZ Yeah, it’s getting harder. 

PF It used to be something I could do. You’d be like [no], “Hey, I wonder what [no] music came out.” [Chuckles

RZ They don’t want you doing anything, actually, they’ll figure that out for you. That’s what’s happening. 

PF I mean this is what’s tricky: the algorithms are quite good. 

RZ You’re not gonna believe this. I’m sitting, looking at updates, I’m interrupting you, I apologize [you gotta go] but I kid you not—

PF Breaking news! 

RZ I kid you not breaking news. I just refreshed for new updates [and there’s a new update] and Spotify—there’s a new Spotify update. 

PF Mm hmm. Of course there is. 

RZ Like as we’re talking right now. Before the end of this podcast, there’ll be another one. 

PF Sure!

[13:51]

RZ So there’ll be probably two updates while we’re talking this through. 

PF How do they decide what gets into that feature roadmap? I’m assuming it’s something like, “Hey, we should put this in the feature roadmap,” and everybody goes, [low tone] “Yeeees.” 

RZ Is that? 

PF No! I mean, obviously not [I feel like they’re—], they’re really good. They’re really smart. 

RZ Well, I think they’re aggressive about the decision making process. I think they’re [and utterly—] thinking there’s gonna be this jewel. I’m like, “Holy moly. [Yeah] That’s spectacular. Whatever that was.” 

PF Utterly indifferent to what users want. 

RZ I’m gonna try to explain [Paul chuckling under his breath] their rationale, and many others’ rationale: I think they’re thinking, “You know what? There’s probably so much me—like measurement wired into that app.” 

PF Sure, well they’re trying—and they’re trying to make those algorithms work because that’s what growth is. 

RZ And they’re also kind of seeing what people are doing, and I think what they’re doing and there’s like—“You know what? Let’s just throw shit at the wall.” Every so often it’ll be just this wonderous little tweak that just added 11 percent engagement [I mean I think there’s—] worth two percent engagement. 

PF Because they’re at such a scale with so many millions and millions of users and billions of dollars of revenue, then what choice do they have? I mean look at—

RZ Well, how big is the analytics team at Spotify? 

PF Oh it’s probably, hopefully, larger than the product team. 

RZ [Laughing] It better be! 

PF Yeah, it better be. Look: if I’m Spotify, what do I really have? I have this amazing defensive mode around the licensing relationships that I’ve built with my licensees of music. And! I have a really, really high quality, at this point, database of recorded music that—and a streaming service [yeah]. Right? And then I have this—

[15:18]

RZ You got all the pieces. 

PF I gotta let people talk to it somehow. I think when history looks back they’re gonna go, “Spotify, what an amazing company. They were able to create those relationships.” No one is going to say, “Spotify: they drew a circle and put a triangle inside of it and changed the world.” 

RZ That’s right! 

PF Right? 

RZ I think that’s right. 

PF So, the problem is you have a product culture at a company like that and, of course, like they wanna do really good work but I wonder, at some level, this might get a little meta, does it matter? 

RZ There are things that matter if technology moves in a certain direction [yeah] such that if I touch my cheek, I can go forward and backwards [yeah] in a track, Spotify better support it. Like, if a phone comes out [of course] that has certain capabilities. 

PF Yeah, but they’re not gonna create that. 

RZ No, they’re not gonna create that. 

PF There’s not gonna create that. 

RZ That’s why they—

PF Remember when Snap was gonna make glasses? 

RZ I think they did make ‘em. 

PF Yeah, they did. There’s only—there’s so few—

RZ They keep going after glasses

PF Everybody does because hardware is the ultimate glory, then you own the whole platform. Everybody wants it. They want that. And it’s—it’s so hard. Nobody can admit how hard it is [it’s real hard]. Yeah, it’s so hard. Cuz when you admit how hard it is, you admit that you’re stupid. Apple is smart. They’re a giant; they’re globe-spanning; they control too much; they’re not always acting in everybody’s best interests; they’re latest keyboards are like petting a cat’s ear, and—and [Rich chuckles] the cat just keeps biting you and parts of the cat keep falling off. But the shipping hardware is so hard. 

[16:38]

RZ It’s their core. I mean it’s their predo—it’s like that’s what they’re about. Right? It is hard and—

PF But the hard part of Spotify was building licensing relationships with giant music players and getting some—even—and then—

RZ It took them like forever to get Metallica and The Beatles. 

PF Well and just like never stopping, even when Apple Music shows up, even when Google Play shows up. Just never stopping. 

RZ [Stammers] I think they had no choice. 

PF They just said, “We’re gonna build the mo—anyway we can. We’re gonna keep goin’. We’re gonna keep goin’.” 

RZ Mm hmm. 

PF “Now we’re gonna have podcasts and, guess what? You all can’t have ‘em.” 

RZ I wanna latch something else onto this, a feature change that was very counterintuitive, I don’t know if we talked about this in a prior podcast. When a feature’s taken away. 

PF Mm! 

RZ Sometimes it’s a really wonderful thing. 

PF Pitchforks come out. 

RZ Well, no, wait. No, wait. This one was an interesting one. 

PF Oh what feature? 

RZ Do you remember surge pricing? 

PF Yeah. 

[17:25]

RZ Ok, surge pricing was if there’s less cars on the road, the price goes up. Like this pure implementation of like Adam Smith [yeah, yeah, real time capitalism]. And market dynamics and real time capitalism. It’s raining, people are using cars, you’re gonna pay more to get one [yup]. It was a nice thing because it incented drivers to go out . . . and drive. And provide more inventory for people to consume. Right? Or not. 

PF People have opinions about this but let’s—for the purpose of the argument—let’s say this was a nice thing. 

RZ No, no. It’s—it was just a thing. Not nice. Or—[ok, yeah] nice or not nice. Nice thing for certain drivers that knew how to take advantage of it [yup], not nice for consumers who had to pay more, but! A PR groundswell—

PF Great for Uber too. 

RZ Well, great for Uber, of course. A PR groundswell kicked in [mm hmm]. Essentially, it was framed as exploitation. You’re exploiting consumers who need a thing. And Uber tried to explain itself. I think for New Year’s they were like at cost, like it was—they kept it cheap, so people didn’t drink and drive. 

PF Nobody—

RZ They did all kinds of nonsense. 

PF Nobody wants to internalize market demand. 

RZ How did they fix it, Paul? 

PF How’d they fix it? 

RZ How’d they fix it? Do you know how they fixed it?

PF Tell me. 

RZ They just removed it. They removed the visual cues and the signalling that something was about to get more expensive. 

PF But the pricing still goes up? 

RZ It still goes up. [Yeah] It’s just not there. It’s not visually represented. It’s just, “Hmm, this was nine bucks yesterday but it’s drizzling out and now it’s 13.” 

[18:51]

PF Now, I tried to take a car home on the first night of Ramadan [mm hmm] which is big—Iftar, it’s a big—it’s a big event. And it was like three times more expensive. 

RZ Everybody’s eating. 

PF I took a bus. 

RZ That is a case where a feature update was actually something—something was excluded. They actually decided to communicate less with the consumer which seems unfair. And they decided to become less transparent, and the problem went away. 

PF Mm hmm. 

RZ Very fascinating to me. 

PF Oh yeah, it removed the copy. Great solution. 

RZ [Laughing] Removed the copy! 

PF Yeah. 

RZ I wanna end it with this: can you—like if Spotify hits a rough patch . . . right? And they have to like rejig earnings. Could you lop off a third of engineering and really not feel the impact from a product perspective? 

PF Look, the thing I hate about our industry [sighs]—and I hate to say it as a software services firm—is you can always lop off a third of engineering. 

RZ Oof! 

PF You can lop off a third of marketing—this is the brutal part, nobody knows which third. 

RZ Yeah. 

PF And nobody [Rich laughing]—nobody volunteers. 

RZ You know one of the best things you can do, actually, is lop off a third of engineering and hire like a sharp shooter agency [Paul laughing boisterously] like ourselves, Postlight, 101 5th Avenue. 

PF That’s right. We call that The Blood Feast. Um—

[19:59]

RZ [Laughing] The Blood Feast Offering. 

PF No, look: of course you can. Of course you can. It is—except that you can’t if you’re in a giant matrixed organization where there’s enormous communication needs about every decision, driving a strategy, then you need all those humans. 

RZ Mm hmm. 

PF But to actually execute and to build the thing, it’s—it’s—Look at how many things that we build that are just basically SalesForce underneath because why re-implement a Customer Relationship Manager? 

RZ So it can be done. 

PF Sure. 

RZ It truly can be done. 

PF It can. I think the thing is there is an element of you need to own control, your—your content and your platform and your tech and your destiny. 

RZ I think it’s a bit of paranoia. 

PF Yeah. 

RZ Like, “We have to stay on top of this.” It’s competitive paranoia. 

PF Well, and I take a third away and I replace it with something off the shelf or I glue a few external services together. If I’m really at scale, I’m now under pressure because I [mm hmm] just don’t own my platform top to bottom. 

RZ I think there’s another bit here: when you rip a third away, you break all the fabric. It’s hard to recover, you gotta keep in mind this is a collection of humans. 

PF Yup. 

[21:03]

RZ And when you lop off a third, a lot—a lot more is gonna go and it becomes—it reminds me of Yahoo as if [this is the thing—] it’s sort of bleeding for awhile. 

PF People ask this question, you know, could we—could we get rid of a third of the people in engineering? The answer is probably yes. The thing will stay up; it’ll keep running. And then you have 18 months of restorative cultural work ahead of you. 

RZ Tons. 

PF So you need to decide—Like, there is no easy, good way to do it. And then they’re like, “Oh! We’ll outsource!” And it’s like, “Yeah, and then everybody’s gonna quit here cuz they know there’s no stability.” 

RZ It just keeps bleeding. 

PF Like you’re going to create a radical and disruptive situation and people lie to themselves about how traumatic that is. And if keeping talent close to you matters at all, you’re gonna be in big trouble and you’re gonna have an unbelievable amount of work to do. 

RZ That’s right. 

PF That trade off is tricky and, frankly, I don’t think people are mature half the time that they make it. They think that there’s some—that they’re gonna be able to cheat and change human nature. 

RZ Not happening. 

PF Never happens. 

RZ So speaking of human nature, stop touching my shit. I paid a lot of money [Paul laughs] for my phone; I pay you every month; [Paul keeps laughing] I don’t even know who I pay every month at this point. 


PF It’s getting more and more invisible, frankly. I’m sure I have 50 apps that updated, you know, in the last week. I have no idea. 

RZ No, I have no idea. You have no idea. And—and every so often, it’s wonderful. 

PF This thing with Spotify is you use it. You use it constantly and so you notice that they just move shit around at random. Like in the Matt Damon movie where there’s like people keep rearranging reality? 

RZ Yeah. That’s Spotify. 

[22:23]

PF Yeah, Poltergeist. Spotify’s product team is essentially the ghosts in Poltergeist. [Rich laughs] You’re like, “I was sitting in that! Where’s my chair?!?” 

RZ Let’s—let’s close this with [music fades in] we are both Spotify consumers and we love Spotify. 

PF We wouldn’t have this—I know many people work there [laughs]. 

RZ Yeah. 

PF [Guffaws] We uh we wouldn’t be having this conversation except from a place of love. 

RZ Exactly! This is how we build it. This is how we build that relationship. 

PF This is it: if you listen to this podcast for career advice, what you just heard was two Spotify fans saying how much they like the product. 

RZ Bingo. 

PF That’s the worst part and the best part about this industry. If you like complaining, you should come to our event on May 21st. 

RZ You know what we specialize in, Paul? 

PF Software updates? 

RZ We build stuff. We build platforms, apps, mobile experiences, web experiences—

PF If you want that weekly update, to go out, we’ll do that for you. 

RZ Yeah. 

PF We’ll get it into [Rich chuckles] the App Store and we [laughing]—

RZ Every week! [Laughs

PF Everything we’re complaining about, we will do! 

RZ We will do for you! 

PF Absolutely. 

RZ For money. 

PF You want an app built on top of your giant API just like Spotify? Get in touch. 

RZ Anyway, we have done some great work for clients like Vice, Bloomberg, Goldman Sachs, just a lot of wonderful clients. Big sprawling platforms, as well as the smaller clients and startups and—

PF Facebook [both laugh]. We like ‘em big and small and in-between. 

RZ Yes. 

PF We like all the clients. 

RZ So reach out, we’d love to talk: [email protected] Have a great week! 

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