Episode · August 10, 2023

The podcast about what to do next.


[Unedited Transcript]

Paul Ford: [00:00:00] Hey, Rich, how you doing?

Rich Ziade: doing well. How are you?

Paul Ford: Well, you know, we got this startup, Aboard, aboard. com, and I talked to a lot of people about the way that they use data and computers and what they do. And because Aboard is an organization system, ultimately, it’s about turning links and data into these little simple cards that you move around on the screen.

It’s nice that way.

Rich Ziade: It’s real nice that way

Paul Ford: So we feel good about that part, but as you talk, I talk to people a lot about how they use data, and a lot of people have stories about Google Sheets, and they, they use WhatsApp and chat. There’s always like, you know, I’m doing this house project with my wife, or, and, uh, you know, I’m putting all the furniture in here, and I’m the one who puts the furniture in, and then she, she drops the links into the chat.

Rich Ziade: Okay, so let’s back up a second because I like to simplify things One of the most common ways to communicate is to point someone to a link You’re chatting [00:01:00] It’s usually a chat because people chat. There was a day when it was all email and then everybody started chatting on WhatsApp and Messenger and SMS or whatever.

And they drop a link. My wife dropped six links to me today. Some were from Instagram. So some were for a play that she was seeing if we wanted to go. Just links.

Paul Ford: this is actually the miracle of the web. We think about the web as like this unified box of, of ideas and thoughts that you get to through a browser. But the miracle of the web is that all the things on all the servers have a little postal address. And if you drop the link in, everybody knows how to get to that address.

Rich Ziade: Well, if you touch it. With your finger it opens and that’s crazy

Paul Ford: take that part for granted. We just assume that like, oh, well that’s how it should work. That’s a [00:02:00] miracle.

Rich Ziade: It’s a miracle I mean one minute I’m talking to my wife the next I’m watching a movie on my

Paul Ford: Every piece of information that we know of in the world that’s online has an address.

Rich Ziade: now the problem with that

Paul Ford: huh.

Rich Ziade: is that the Conversation washes away that link that someone sent you yesterday afternoon to the point where my wife will Corner me with the following question. Did you open that link? I sent you yesterday

Paul Ford: Sure.

Rich Ziade: And I’ll always say yes.

Paul Ford: Yes.

Rich Ziade: It’s it’s it’s just you start with

Paul Ford: Well, let’s be real, you’re already on your phone in the middle of a conversation. It’s not like you’re making eye contact when she asks that question.

Rich Ziade: So there is you know, there is this sort of What’s the word? Ephemeral quality to chat, right? It’s just conversation. It’s fleeting. It comes and goes. Except links are not that. Links are meaningful. [00:03:00] Sometimes links are put aside as like, we should think about this later when we talk about your, our son’s school.

Paul Ford: so there’s your wife, there is, um, I talk to people, I talked to someone today who’s like, you know, I, I put my links in this one text document that I can never, but she’s the organized one with her, her podcast

Rich Ziade: We talked to an editor a couple months ago. They use all kinds of tools to get work done. It’s a publication. But he personally keeps all his links in like one big text file.

Paul Ford: But then what you find out is that those are the link organizing, the link organizing people. And there’s always someone else in the relationship who will only drop them in the chat.

Rich Ziade: They just sort of shoot him into this

Paul Ford: And the fantasy of the link organizer… is that they’re going to be able to educate and train the other person on a tool so that they can all organize links together.

Rich Ziade: They want none of that.

Paul Ford: And this is what, but I keep seeing this pattern over and over to the point that I’ve named it. Okay, so I think the first kind I call card sorters.[00:04:00]

Rich Ziade: Card sorters are people who don’t just let a link sit there. They actually file it away.

Paul Ford: Well, card sorters are very like We see a lot of them because those are the people who sign up for and are engaged in a new software product. And then there are people who are like, we’ll just, and I call them link droppers who will just put the link in the chat. They think the idea of signing up for a beta software product and using it to organize information so that you might learn it is the dumbest thing they’ve ever heard in their

Rich Ziade: They’d rather have a scoop of ice cream.

Paul Ford: Just literally anything. Here’s the link. What do you care? Why do you want to put it in a folder? What’s wrong with you? But what I find is that every relationship that, where people talk about how they organize things An enormous number of fundamental relationships have one of each, like, like, it’s sort of like a lot of marriages.

It’s not predictable whether it’s the husband or the wife

Rich Ziade: Yeah. I think this is correct in life, right? Like in life, there is usually a person who’s more of an organizer and the other person just sort of shoots [00:05:00] information out. Also.

Paul Ford: Both think the other one is a lunatic.

Rich Ziade: Yeah.

Paul Ford: How can you live in this sloppy nightmare of open tabs on one side? And why are you so uptight all the time on the other?

Rich Ziade: And, and why are you installing tools on your computer?

Paul Ford: And yet that is most marriages

Rich Ziade: That is most marriages.

Paul Ford: and, and many business relationships and so on and so

Rich Ziade: think it gets more interesting in business, because in business, you know, usually the things you’re doing in your life are… Unless it’s like you’re both on a journey to buy a house, or on a journey to pick a school for your kid, or whatever, it’s usually optional.

Paul Ford: Yeah, but even there, it’s one link dropper and one

Rich Ziade: It still is. I think that’s

Paul Ford: card sorter.

Rich Ziade: other, the other scenario of work, if you’re doing it for work,

Paul Ford: get fired if you don’t do it.

Rich Ziade: that’s fear, right?

Paul Ford: That’s, that’s the secret. Why is enterprise software a trillion [00:06:00] dollar industry? Because if you don’t use the ERP system, you don’t get to have the job.

Rich Ziade: Yeah, exactly. It’s like, oh, where’s that claim? I don’t know. It’s in the, it’s in the chat. You’re not allowed to say that at work. Look,

Paul Ford: know what it is?

Rich Ziade: in the chat.

Paul Ford: actually, weirdly, now you kind of are.

Rich Ziade: I hope

Paul Ford: No, this is slack. I’ve seen this pattern, I guess.

Rich Ziade: but, but there are systems

Paul Ford: You want to know

Rich Ziade: of record that hold an insurance claim

Paul Ford: Oh, oh, the real

Rich Ziade: The real stuff.

Paul Ford: you know, this was actually, um, Slack emojis were used to make decisions at that giant crypto company in the Bahamas that melted down.

Rich Ziade: Is that

Paul Ford: Yeah, yeah, there’s a lot of like,

Rich Ziade: like how they scored.

Paul Ford: they like would reply to investments like, you know, with like thumbs up. Well, that’s, yeah, the investigators didn’t

Rich Ziade: So our look you are look what we’re doing right now is is Being we’re being we’re listening to people and being thoughtful about how they use a tool Is it your belief? I think what you’re saying [00:07:00] is you’re never gonna change anyone.

Paul Ford: first of all,

Rich Ziade: you saying

Paul Ford: first of all, this was just a discovery for me, my wife and I, we go back and forth between, she’s very organized around a lot of stuff. She works in project management. She is anything related to the home, to our, to our taxes.

She’s very buttoned up. Anything related, but like, I’ll make a board using our tool for Christmas gifts or things like that. Like I’m, I also, I have my categories where I like to be organized and we kind of meet in the middle. But I think like, It’s definitely one is more motivated than the other at any given time, and overall she’s way more organized than I am.

Um, so I think, but it was just wild to hear this narrative over and over again. It was wild to hear the organized types, the card sorters, just sort of lament that they could, you know, they had all these systems, like I made a Google Sheet, or

Rich Ziade: did all the work,

Paul Ford: a Ford to fill out there. Well, they love to feel superior.

They like to sort the cards.

Rich Ziade: but they also kind of throw guilt at

Paul Ford: Well, what they hate is cutting and pasting things on mobile. That’s the like, the worst interface to information that has ever been created is mobile cut and

Rich Ziade: it’s actually

Paul Ford: Yeah, [00:08:00] it’s just a bad experience.

Rich Ziade: and it doesn’t

Paul Ford: Oh, even on iOS like that pop up where it’s just like, Web share, you’re just, well, I just want to…

Rich Ziade: Where do people put things today?

Paul Ford: They put them everywhere, okay?

Rich Ziade: about the card sorters, the ones that love tools and all that? Where are they putting them?

Paul Ford: Oh, we get a Notion that’s custom built for them.

Rich Ziade: Notion?

Paul Ford: You get a Notion? Yeah, that is like a, they use Google Sheets, they use Asana, they

Rich Ziade: spreadsheets, anything that’ll hold some stuff.

Paul Ford: yes. And they’re very committed to it, to do with, you know, just whatever. And, uh,

Rich Ziade: to keep lists of

Paul Ford: and they, they feel passionate about it until they move on to the next one.

Rich Ziade: But then do they give a login to, to the, to the link dropper person? And what happens then? They don’t go

Paul Ford: No, they put stuff in there. They mean well, but they put stuff in chat. Yeah, so it’s just, you see this, and then you’ll hear these other stories, which will be like, well, did you know that every chat, like on WhatsApp, you can see [00:09:00] all the links? Same with Slack. You can see all the links that everyone puts.

Rich Ziade: them out and they list them out

Paul Ford: That doesn’t make anything better. Have you ever seen that thing? It’s just

Rich Ziade: It’s bad.

Paul Ford: brar. So, so what’s been interesting. So, you know, there’s two ways to look at this. First of all, our product has to appeal to the card sorter types. It’s literally a product where you sort cards. So

Rich Ziade: I mean, they are your advocate

Paul Ford: there you’re, you’re not going to get the link droppers in.

Rich Ziade: No?

Paul Ford: No, only the card sorters will bring the link droppers to the

Rich Ziade: Okay, but will the link droppers use it?

Paul Ford: What we can aim for is for the link droppers to have just enough, so like if they put a link in the chat, it should turn into a card, but the cards are, we’re not going to change humans. And what I, what I’m actually,

Rich Ziade: turn this into some advice, because we’re speaking pretty abstractly, and I think, I think I have something to

Paul Ford: all right, you go first and I’ve got some advice

Rich Ziade: Well, I think, I think… The hardest thing you can do, and probably the least glamorous thing you can do, as a product leader… [00:10:00] Focus on the simple and stubborn user who doesn’t want to learn your tool, isn’t impressed by your features and somehow win them over.

Even if you’re winning them over for one tiny corner of the experience, you’re winning them over. And that’s really, really, really hard to do. It’s hard. It’s the hardest thing to do. It’s easy. If someone is a nerd who loves playing with apps. Signs up to every free

Paul Ford: you can give them a try.

Rich Ziade: you get them to try and then you got to kind of impress them with all the like bells and whistles that other person who just does not care about your fancy tech and you’re trying to win over.

If you can win that person over, that is the highest bar. If you can win that person over, you’re going to win everyone else over. And I think, I think simple mobile games. are probably the most optimized type of software for that person

Paul Ford: onboarding on like Candy Crush. Is

Rich Ziade: is incredible, right? It’s satisfying. They [00:11:00] understand the, the, the value of, of like sort of showing you animations like that, that simulate physics to make you feel like it’s real.

Paul Ford: Meemaw forgot to cook the turkey at Thanksgiving, but that’s

Rich Ziade: Yeah, exactly. Um, that’s the hardest thing to do. It’s the hardest person to win over. They’re not impressed by your brochure. They don’t care about your software.

Paul Ford: not that they’re actually hostile. They’re indifferent.

Rich Ziade: They’re indifferent. They don’t use the word software. No one who’s playing Candy Crush thinks of it as software.

Paul Ford: No, true. It’s a, it’s a game on their phone.

Rich Ziade: So aim for that person. It’s the hardest

Paul Ford: Well, I’ll make another point. This is what I’ve been thinking. This is what I’ve been learning. People think they’re going to change each other with software.

Rich Ziade: How’s that going?

Paul Ford: It doesn’t work.

Rich Ziade: It never

Paul Ford: People, you can’t change human behavior unless their actual, like, financial stability is at risk.

Rich Ziade: Or their job. That’s why enterprise software is so ugly, yet so pervasive.

Paul Ford: So there’s that. [00:12:00] But what, what can we do about that? Well, what we can do is enable Some more simplicity in the relationship, right? So like, I’m not gonna get somebody, the link dropper is not gonna suddenly come in and start making cards and celebrating our beautiful taxonomy system for, with tags.

But what we could do is make it really easy for them to drop the link in and for the card sort of drop it in. And actually, since you can drag to tag, you know, if they want to tag something at one time, we make it easy for them. And then of course when you, when they do that, it’s always like, They, then they like tell everybody for three days about how they’re now an expert in the system.

Drives the

Rich Ziade: Show it off.

Paul Ford: the card sort of crazy. But the, um, but I think the larger point is that what you’re enabling with all this stuff is not some sort of magical human empowerment. You’re enabling relationships between individuals. They’re going to use your software as a [00:13:00] tool and it, the, that it all comes down to them interacting with others.

You know, I want to, I want to plan a vacation with my wife. Well, because I want to have a good experience with my wife. What happens with software tools is they tend to emphasize their role in this as the most important. I made it, look, I made the greatest ever vacation planner. And it’s like, no, the job you’re doing is you’re saying, hey, We’re going to have a good time, and we’re going to hang out, and we’re going to go to some great dinners.

Rich Ziade: I took care of some stuff for it.

Paul Ford: And I did something for you. Right? Because I used this thing. I did something for you with this thing. And I think it’s really hard for software people to be like, That’s all you are. You’re a screwdriver in their pocket. Right? Like you’re,

Rich Ziade: It’s a tool that can enhance a relationship is really what you’re saying

Paul Ford: screwdrivers are, well, actually, they can enhance a relationship if you, like, need to fix something for someone, or you, like, keep the bed from falling apart. Or, you know, you can, screwdrivers are important.

Rich Ziade: No, but it’s no more than that is what you’re saying. Software is not the center of the[00:14:00]

Paul Ford: It should aspire to that and not aspire to be this magical, wonderful elixir.

Rich Ziade: That’s right and look I think the biggest mistake people make is they think more features and more power Equals magical elixir and it’s actually the opposite the simpler it is the quicker it is to pick it up That’s why a lot of stuff that takes off is actually fundamentally really simple like whatsapp is a very basic piece of

Paul Ford: It’s also, in no way, I mean, how many chat apps existed before?

Rich Ziade: many Many, right? I mean, and, and they just dumbed it down the, the, they paired it up with the phone number. It was like, Oh, okay. My identity. Is my phone number. I understand that and I can use this around the world.

Paul Ford: long did it take you to get the pun in WhatsApp’s name?

Rich Ziade: Oh, just now. So approximately 20 years.

Paul Ford: [00:15:00] took me, I didn’t, I, I

Rich Ziade: 20 years.

Paul Ford: it like, like a year ago. I was like. Oh it’s what’s up?

Rich Ziade: Yeah.

Paul Ford: Uh…

Rich Ziade: don’t back up their shit. They don’t use strong passwords. I went to, let’s end it with a little story. I dropped my phone in the pool

Paul Ford: Uh… Okay.

Rich Ziade: it to the Apple store, the Genius Bar. And as soon as she saw it was wet, she’s like, Oh, it’s wet. We’re just going to replace it.

What we do is we send it back to Apple, and they literally like have robots dissect the parts, and whatever still

Paul Ford: Oh, it’s full of gold and snacks and yeah… There’s potato chips in

Rich Ziade: she’s like, but I need to transfer your, your data. Do you know, and she looked at me with absolute fear in her eyes and she goes, do you know your iCloud password?

Paul Ford: Ha ha ha ha ha ha

Rich Ziade: And I was like, of course I do. It’s like everything. I have everything in

Paul Ford: 80, 87% of people who go by there.

Rich Ziade: oh, you’re so good at this. She was so happy because she, I lopped off. 20 minutes off the session, right? I would have [00:16:00] had to like, prove my identity to her, all this stuff before she could like, you know, go through the protocol.

I punched it into the computer, like she had a computer there, uh, to log in so they can turn off my, find my locator

Paul Ford: Right, right, right, right.

Rich Ziade: And she, I logged in, she goes, Good for you. She was so really why Apple has made it like they are the extreme example of ease of use being the number one priority. But then when the shit hits the fan, nobody knows their password.

Nobody backed up in months. They’re like, wait, you don’t have your phone. Did you back up? I’m like, of course I have my phone backing up like every night. It’s all good.

Paul Ford: goes to iCloud,

Rich Ziade: They gave, she gave me a medal. Give me a blue ribbon on my forehead by the

Paul Ford: what, that’s probably the most praise you’ve received in like 36

Rich Ziade: been a long time. That’s separate. That’s not this podcast. But what it highlights is. How they’ve prioritized things, which is like, make it easy, simple, basic backups and all that. Maybe, maybe there’s one person in the household that’s like, [00:17:00] everybody, give me your phones, time to Set the backup. Did you, I often turn to my wife and say like, there’s a big security update.

Um, have you updated your phone?

Paul Ford: it in. She just punches you in the

Rich Ziade: just looks at me. No, she just stares at me. She’s like, I don’t know.

Paul Ford: cares?

Rich Ziade: Um, aiming for simple is the hardest thing to do.

Paul Ford: Yeah, and look, it’s, it’s, what is simple? It’s a, it’s a nickname for empathy.

Rich Ziade: It’s a nickname for empathy. And then designers have been talking this forever. But

Paul Ford: They think simple is white space.

Rich Ziade: look. Moore’s law and the power of tech means you can put more buttons than ever, ever. Games on a phone are better than games on a computer ten years ago. So we, our inclination is to give you more, and what everybody wants is something real basic.

Paul Ford: Oh, you know what, let’s close this out with some bad news. You ready?

Rich Ziade: Oh no.

Paul Ford: I don’t think superconducting is a go. [00:18:00] Yeah, it didn’t quite land. The papers that are coming out now are like, eh, eh.

Rich Ziade: papers that are

Paul Ford: they’ve tried to replicate. People have replicated.

Rich Ziade: now are…

Paul Ford: definitely something but

Rich Ziade: they’re coming out.

Paul Ford: looks like it might be regular old magnetic. Yeah, but it’s going to be, it’s going to really be amazing on your fridge. Or not, maybe there’s something there, but now science has to do its thing.

Rich Ziade: it’s boring.

Paul Ford: boring. There’s no shortcuts. So now we’re in the boring zone. So, unfortunately we have to get… Yeah, we got to get back to regular old climate mitigation and

Rich Ziade: ha ha ha ha! Forest

Paul Ford: I thought, I thought we should update the podcast since I came in hot and

Rich Ziade: You were really happy about it.

Paul Ford: I was so excited. But you know what? I’m going to tell you something. That reminded me… There’s so much amazing progress, like, like the [00:19:00] mRNA stuff, and so, like, there’s so much that’s good out in the world.

Some of the AI stuff is actually kind of magical, like, if you take aside all the politics around it, my goodness, it’s glorious. And so, um,

Rich Ziade: We should talk about what you love about it in

Paul Ford: yeah, I mean, we got it, but it’s like, it did remind me to lean into human potential a little bit, because it’s a gloomy era.

Rich Ziade: We don’t have a choice,

Paul Ford: Yeah, well, you’re going to choose, well, you do, you can choose hope or not.

Rich Ziade: Yeah, yeah, yeah. No, I’m, I’m optimistic. I’m naturally

Paul Ford: You’re wired. I have to make the choice. But here we are. So look, check out Abort. com. It is launching real soon for everybody.

But if you sign up, we’re going to wave you in real fast. And, uh, we’d love to know what you make of it. Abort. com, follow Abort on Twitter. We’re at ZiadeFord on Twitter. ZiadeFord. com. Did I forget anything?

Rich Ziade: I think that’s it. Thanks for checking the boxes, Ford.

Paul Ford: Oh, I did. Send an email to hello at ZiadeFord. com.

Rich Ziade: we love emails. Truly. Bye bye.[00:20:00]

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