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FOOD FAKERY, GLITTERBOMBS, steamy photographs

Ann Reardon (How to Cook That)

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On her YouTube channel How to Cook That, Ann Reardon has shown viewers how to make desserts like an iPad cake, a giant Kit Kat bar, and even a chocolate book. But she's also well-known for debunking viral food videos that purport to show amazing life-hacks, and are often just disinformation.

"If your end goal is simply to get the most views so that you get a bonus, then making up stuff that doesn't actually work is really not an issue," she says. "If that's your mindset, then it's quite a dangerous world, really."

Today on Follow Friday, Ann talks about the debunking series, her new cookbook Crazy Sweet Creations, and four fascinating people she follows: A chocolate sculptor whose creations look completely real; a former NASA engineer who has turned squirrel mazes and glitterbombs into YouTube stardom; a food photographer who can teach you how to take better photos with just your phone; and a Silicon Valley investor whose podcast unlocks the secrets of business success.

And you can get a fifth recommendation later today if you back Follow Friday on Patreon, starting at just $1 a month. Special thanks to our patron of the week: Elizabeth!

Follow us:
- Ann is on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram @HowToCookThat
- This show is on Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok @followfridaypod
- Eric is on Twitter @heyheyesj

Theme song written by Eric Johnson, and performed by Yona Marie. Show art by Dodi Hermawan.
Full transcript of this episode
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ERIC JOHNSON: Today on Follow Friday, we're going to talk about food fakery, chocolate sculptures, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, glitterbombs, squirrels, and how to take good pictures of your brunch. That's coming up with Ann Reardon from How to Cook That.

ERIC [AD]: But first! Today's show is brought to you by 24 Hour Homepage. I love this site, and if you like weird internet culture stuff, you will, too. Here's the twist: Every second of every day on 24 Hour Homepage, you will see a different picture, and it repeats, on a loop, forever. This is the first art project where you can literally own time. Check it out and go reserve your favorite time of day before someone else does. It's at

[theme song]

ERIC: I'm Eric Johnson. Welcome to Follow Friday, a podcast about who you should follow online. Every week, I talk to creative people about who they follow, and why. This is a guided tour to the best people on the Internet, led by your favorite writers, podcasters, comedians, and more. You can help me make Follow Friday for as little as a dollar a month at You can also support the show for free by telling your friends to listen to it.

Today on the show is Ann Reardon, the host of the YouTube channel How to Cook That. On the channel, she shows viewers how to make amazing cakes, macarons, pastries, and more. She also debunks viral food videos that other people have made, because they are often fake and sometimes actually dangerous.

And, she's also the author of a brand new cookbook called Crazy Sweet Creations, which you can find wherever you get books. I have a party this weekend and I am seriously thinking about using Ann's recipe for what she calls "The Best Chocolate Cake."

ANN REARDON: [laughs]

ERIC: That is a bold claim. We'll find out how true it is.

You can find Ann on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram @HowToCookThat, and on Patreon at H2CT. Ann, welcome to Follow Friday!

ANN: Thank you so much for having me, Eric.

ERIC: I'm so excited to have you here. I mentioned the debunking videos that you do, which is how I first found your channel on YouTube. And the videos you debunk ... they are crazy popular, they come from these weird channels like 5 Minute Crafts. There's so many of these videos floating around online.

So before we get into your follows, I was wondering if you could explain just where are these videos coming from, and how did you decide to become a food Mythbuster?

ANN: Well, predominantly they are coming from content farms, so there's interesting dynamics in the fact of the more videos you put up and the more often you put up, then the more the algorithms tend to like that. Of course, that lends towards countries where you don't have to pay a lot for your content producers and your editors and everything else, because then you can produce a lot more content, for a lot less. There are some companies in the US who are doing the same sort of thing, and in Russia as well, just all over the world. Just setting up massive workshops. Rooms as big as you can imagine, just with tables everywhere with cameras pointing straight down and just recording as much food content as they can.

If that's your job to record as much as you can, it's not to look after the audience. It's not to make sure it works. It's to make sure you get the most shares and it goes the most viral. Then for some of them, you even get bonuses if you do that.

So if your end goal is simply to get the most views so that you get a bonus, then making up stuff that doesn't actually work is really not an issue, if that's your only parameters. If you have no concern for your audience, you're not trying to teach people, you have no moral conscience on that, you're just, "Well, if they're dumb enough to believe it, who cares?" If that's your mindset, then it's quite a dangerous world, really.

There's a mixture of people who watch debunking. There are the people who already see those videos and go, "That is fake," and they're frustrated by it. Chefs and people who cook a lot can spot it. Then there's the other mixture. I had a book signing on the weekend and it was half and half of the people who said, "Oh yeah, I was so frustrated by these videos," and the other people who said, "Thank you, because I used to watch them and I believed them all. I thought that they did work."

In the comments, we get people who say, "Oh, I tried that recipe and it didn't work. And I wasted all my ingredients." Particularly, young people saying, "I thought that it was me. I thought I couldn't cook and I haven't baked since." Cooking is science. Really, it's not just misinformation. Because misinformation is you saying, "I think this works," but really it doesn't, but you believe that it does. You think ... that's misinformation. Disinformation is when you know it doesn't work and you're putting it out there as if it does. So, that's disinformation about science for a whole generation coming through who are going to not know how to cook.

ERIC: Yeah. And they'd look so snazzy and professional, like they could have come from a real reputable source. And so this is just like a classic disinformation problem where just because something looks the way you'd expect professional videos to look, that doesn't mean they're telling the truth, that doesn't mean they care at all about your safety or about empowering you to learn how to cook anything.

ANN: Correct. but you're also right there in the video production quality is very good. The editing is very good. That side of it is well done, so it's a matter of teaching people how to check the source and knowing if the source is reliable. Some people go, "Oh, well, they did that video. And that video works." That's how disinformation really gets through is if you mix in the disinformation with some truth. If everything you did was fake, then people would know it was fake, or they would know it was for comedy. Like a channel, like HowToBasic, everything starts out as if he's doing a how-to, and it ends up with him throwing eggs at things. Everybody knows that it's comedy. It's not a how-to video. It's a different category, but that's not where these fall into.

ERIC: Enough talking about fakes. Let's talk about some real folks who Ann Reardon follows. You can follow along with us today. Every person Ann recommends will be linked in the show notes and in the transcript at

Ann, before the show, I gave you a list of categories. I asked you to tell me four people you follow, who fit in these categories. We're going to start with someone who's an expert in a very specific niche that you love. That's Amaury Guichon, I think I'm pronouncing that right, from the Pastry Academy. You can find him on Instagram @amauryguichon.

ANN: I'm so glad you pronounced his name, because I'm not sure how you pronounce it; I've never met him! I just follow him.

ERIC: Yeah, exactly. I went to an online pronouncer website and I'm imitating what they told me there. I'm not sure. I apologize if I got that wrong, but Amaury is a pastry chef. But there's one thing in particular he does that's just astounding. Do you want to explain what he's an expert in, specifically?

ANN: Sure. He makes amazing chocolate sculptures. He started out as a savory chef, training as that when he was 14 and then he quickly swapped over to do pastry chef. Born in Switzerland, went over to France in Paris and did some training there as well. Even as an apprentice, he was winning the awards. He won the award for the best pastry chef apprentice in France, and he wasn't even from France.

He's amazing. The chocolate sculptures he does, he was working in Vegas for a while. You could tell he had an unlimited budget on the amount of chocolate and these amazing tempering machines which cost a fortune. He was just making these amazing sculptures, and still does, and they look real.

There's a violin that if you didn't know it was chocolate, you would walk past it thinking it was a violin. He just has some really very creative, realistic stuff. Even things like weights, like for weightlifting weights that are made of chocolate.

ERIC: I saw this. This was for Dwayne Johnson's birthday.

ANN: That's right.

ERIC: He made a dumbbell. It looks so real. That was the first thing of his I watched and I was like, "That's not chocolate," and ... "Oh, my God. It's chocolate." It's incredible.

ANN: It is. Yeah, it's chocolate. He's got a great lamp. If you look up his Instagram and click on the lamp, because you're just thinking he's looking at a lamp, but of course it's cake down the bottom and chocolate for the rest of it. Even the globe is made out of sugar. It's really well done. He's very talented.

ERIC: Do you know from your experience ... You said that some of the equipment he's using would cost a fortune. For something like the dumbbell or the lamp, how time-intensive are these projects? Do you have a sense of how much time it's taking him to make these sort of sculptures? Would this be like something you would do in a day, a week, a month?

ANN: The thing with chocolate is you've got time waiting for it to set because chocolate has to be tempered. You have to get the temperatures exactly right, which is where a tempering machine helps because he doesn't have to hand-temper his chocolate every time.

A dumbbell would probably be one of the easier ones that he's done. You could do a dumbbell, not including setting time, you could actually make the components in probably an hour and then just leave it to set, put it together and dust it with the luster dust or spray it with the spray gun he's got.

But things like the lamp, that'd be at least a day, if not two, because you've got baking time in there. He's got a cake in the base as well. So yeah, at least a couple of days there.

ERIC: Yeah, because I was wondering, some of them, they're like life-size sculptures. He had a lion or a mother and baby sea turtle, all these things where I was just wondering, like, "Is he putting this in the freezer for a week, just to give himself time to do all the details?" But it sounds like maybe not. It sounds like if he has the right equipment, he's able to speed up the process quite a bit then.

ANN: Chocolatiers have special rooms that they work in that are at the perfect temperature for them, and they can adjust it exactly, so that if they want it to be just setting temperature, they can adjust that. If they want it a little bit warmer, they can change it. For something like a chocolate sculpture, that is really ideal.

As someone who works with chocolate a lot and doesn't have that, it swings depending on the temperature of the day, how easy or hard that food is going to be, whereas if you've got the room that you can set it exactly at, then that works a lot better. The big sculptures will take, even someone like him it'll take days because if you pour a large slab of chocolate, you can't just chuck that in the fridge to set, or it won't temper properly.

Most people would be familiar with tempering, even if they haven't used chocolate before. If you've ever bought chocolate and it looks white on the outside, that means it's bloomed. Some of the fat or the sugars come to the surface, which can happen if it's properly tempered but you don't store it at the right temperature. Chocolate lacks consistency. If you put it in the fridge, take it out, put it in the fridge, it can bloom and go like that. It's not off. It just changes. You don't want your chocolate sculpture looking like that, so it's all got to be set at room temperature. It's a bit of a slow process, just waiting things to set.

ERIC: Right. As a casual non-chocolatier here, I can just watch Amaury's videos and just be amazed by the artistry. You are a professional. You've made stuff like this. Maybe not quite as ambitious as the sea turtles or the dumbbell yourself. Can you talk about what you get out of watching his work?

ANN: Yeah. I was doing chocolate sculptures on a much smaller scale before I found his work and was watching it. I love the fact that he's taking the time to get someone to film it even, because you can see, he's using both his hands. He's either setting up a camera on a stand or often it looks like someone else's filming it and just sharing the process, because a lot of people don't share their processes. I think that that's what amazes people.

If you just show the lamp, people will go, "That's a lamp." I remember early on when I showed a handbag cake on Instagram, people were like, "That's not a cake. It's a handbag." I'm like, "No, it's a cake."

ERIC: "I made it myself. I promise you, it's a cake."

ANN: "It's a cake." That's right. From then on, I knew I had to share a photo of it cut, as well as a photo of it as a cake. It's a bit the same with his chocolate sculptures. They are so perfect. You need that how-to process, even though it's not the whole thing, it's just some of it, in order to go, "Oh, wow. Like he made a spring out of chocolate that's actually springy?" To see that come together... I think it's art. I think he's an artist and his chosen medium is chocolate.

ERIC: Yeah. I was thinking about it, sort of in the terms of a magic trick, where the whole thing with a magician is they don't show you how it's done. It's just supposed to be mystical and you're left guessing, "How did that person get from there to there? Where did those doves come from?" or whatever.

Actually, watching some of his videos, seeing the process, seeing the video of how it's done makes it just even more impressive because as you were saying, it is craftsmanship. It is artistry.

ANN: Exactly. He's very talented at what he does.

ERIC: Yeah. That was Amaury Guichon, who is on Instagram @amauryguichon. Ann, let's move on to your next follow. I asked you for someone who inspires you, and you said Mark Rober, who is on YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram @markrober.

He's a former NASA and Apple engineer who has had several viral video hits. Even though I didn't subscribe to his YouTube channel before this, I realized right away, "Oh, I've seen this guy already." Explain what Mark does, and why you say he inspires you.

ANN: Several things ... he inspires me. He, as you said, has several viral videos. I think he actually is the YouTuber who has the most average views per video across all his videos.

ERIC: Wow.

ANN: He is very good at playing the algorithm game, having things that are clickbait so that people will click on them, but the content is good and entertaining.

He did a squirrel maze in his backyard during the lockdown, which sounds like ... most of us, if you haven't seen the video and you're thinking of a squirrel maze, you might be thinking of a maze on the floor, but it's like this three-day contraption in the air. Filmed beautifully, narrated well, tells a story really well.

I think for me, when I started, I started on YouTube 10 years ago. Back then, you didn't get paid for doing videos. I was simply doing them to teach people how to make the cake or how to make the dessert. That's simply a how-to video.

Due to algorithm changes over those 10 years, you really need to be entertaining and you have to have a clickbait thumbnail. That's really hard in food but I think that he nails that in every single one of his videos. I think they're so entertaining to watch. They've got that narrative flowing the whole way through them.

It's got that science background. He's an expert in his field. Being an engineer, a mechanical engineer, the stuff he makes is just amazing. Most people are probably familiar with his glitterbomb package where he makes-

ERIC: That's one of the ones I have definitely seen. Explain what those are.

ANN: He made a glitterbomb, which is essentially a fake package. Well, it is a package, that he would put on the doorstep of his house or a friend's house when people were stealing packages when they are delivered on people's doorstep. Then inside, if you slide the lid off, it explodes glitter everywhere. Hidden on the very inside is four iPhones with cameras in them, so that no matter which way the person opens it, it's being filmed and uploaded to the cloud.

Now, of course, that's quite an expensive package. In order to retrieve the package, he has a GPS system so he knows where it is. The glitterbomb squirts out fart spray so that it stinks and people toss it and get rid of it, so it increases his chance of getting it back.

Just the whole ingenuity of thinking of the idea but then being able to make that, most of us couldn't make that. His engineering is coming in there. Then, to film it in a way that's entertaining as well, that could easily be a really long, boring video. If you actually sit down and look at the actual production and how he's decided to give that to us and present it to us to watch it, it's really skillfully done.

I think he's amazing on many levels. On the video production side of it, the filming and just the storytelling side of it.

ERIC: Just to speak to Mark's engineering chops, he also worked on the Curiosity rover, which is literally on Mars.

ANN: That's right.

ERIC: This is a guy who sends stuff into space who is applying that same level of expertise to making farting glitterbombs, which I really admire. I admire and respect that so much.

ANN: It's actually been picked up. He's working, I think with the FBI he said now, on intercepting...

ERIC: Really?

ANN: Yeah. Intercepting parcels. You know when people have online scams and they're generally scamming elderly people and saying, "Oh, no. I've accidentally transferred $20,000 to you instead of $200. And now you need to give me that money back, or I'm going to lose my job," and really they've overtaken your computer screen and they're showing them their bank account looking like that when it's not true. The person puts some money in the envelope and sends off $20,000.

In the mail, they're swapping the packages out for glitterbombs. They'll grab the $20,000 package off the postman, put the glitterbomb in, and then they can track where it goes and they film the whole operation.

ERIC: Because of the GPS. Yeah.

ANN: It's got the GPS and it's also got the cameras that are filming when they open the package. Then all of a sudden they've got footage of the whole... Again, it's a big floor space with lots of desks and lots of people working on these scams, so they've suddenly got evidence that the police can then use. Yeah, very interesting.

ERIC: That's brilliant. I've seen the glitterbomb videos for sure, which he does every Christmas. I think every year he's iterating, making them even more advanced.

ANN: That's right.

ERIC: Then I'd also seen the squirrel mazes. There's another one that he had done about carnival scams, like the games you play at a carnival or the video games you play in a video game arcade and how they are designed to trick you into thinking that they're easier than they are. Do you have any other favorites from his channel that you've seen?

ANN: Oh, so many. I liked when he did a while ago, every year he does "[To Save the World]." something that's in the brackets on the end of it. He did one that was explaining some engineers who make medical devices that normally are not accessible to people who live in poverty.

For example, if you suspected you had malaria, you would get a blood test and it would go into a centrifuge to spin the blood, and then it would go under a microscope. The centrifuge and the microscope both require power and thousands of dollars. If you're out in poverty in the middle of nowhere, that's not a possibility.

These engineers, their job is to create as cheap as possible way of doing that test to save people's lives, because often by the time they've got enough symptoms that they know it is malaria, for example, they then have to walk three days to the hospital and they are no longer alive in that time. If you can diagnose it earlier, they can walk three days in the early stages of malaria, and then they can get to hospital, get treatment and it saves a life.

They had invented this crazy little glass bowl thing, which acted as the microscopic bit, and two pieces of cardboard and some string which spun it, like when you're pulling it out, a bit like the kids' toys, when you twist the string and pull it out and it spins really fast. They could see from a little drop of blood, whether the person had malaria or not. They've just taken something that would have cost tens and tens of thousands, and they've got it down to $2 per test.

They said that every zero you add on the end of the cost of those tests is making it inaccessible for hundreds of thousands of people. I just think, "Wow, what a thing to put your ingenuity to. How good is that?"

ERIC: That is incredible. That's the thing is, I think some channels, they are in the lane of "We're just making fun videos." Which, as you're saying, are well-designed for the algorithm that are entertaining, that do silly stuff. But I love it when you have a channel like this with someone who's clearly very smart, very talented who is putting those skills to do good use. I love generous and thoughtful people online.

ANN: Definitely.

ERIC: This is a great recommendation. That was Mark Rober, who is on YouTube @markrober. We're going to take a quick break now, but we'll be back in a minute with Ann Reardon from How to Cook That.

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ERIC: Welcome back to Follow Friday. Ann, I asked you to tell me about someone super-talented who's still under the radar. You said Joanie Simon, who's an educator and a food photographer. She's on Instagram and YouTube @thebiteshot. If I'm not mistaken, Joanie is the photographer for your book, Crazy Sweet Creations. Is that right?

ANN: That's correct. I found her on YouTube.

ERIC: I was about to ask. You found her just through watching her YouTube channel?

ANN: Yes. I've been watching her YouTube channel for quite a while and I just loved... There was something I couldn't put my finger on with her photos, but now that she also has a book, she has a book called Picture-Perfect Food and I've bought that book and read it on the cover. It's amazing.

I think the thing I couldn't put my finger on is she has a qualification in fine art, so it's the placement of things. If you showed me two photos side by side, I could say, "Yes, that one looks better," but she could tell you that one looks better and why. If you gave her the first poorer composition, she could just move it around and make it look good.

Whereas the rest of us just keep moving it around, taking a photo and moving it around, trying to make it look good, she knows. She just knows what is going to look good as far as placement. She just has all that composition side of it in her head, somehow.

ERIC: Right.

ANN: She's a bit of a genius when it comes to food photography. She has a channel on YouTube and I think she should have way more followers and way more subscribers because she's brilliant at what she does. I think a lot of what she does, you could use in other areas of photography, not just food. She talks a lot about, you don't have to have the best camera. She does whole videos on how to take things with an iPhone and how to set up this and how do you use just one light.

I like the fact that she doesn't say you need to have, again, a hundred thousand dollars worth of photography and lighting equipment to take this photo. She'll show you, "You can do this if you get your composition and your lighting using natural light and just your iPhone." It's very accessible.

ERIC: That's the thing. The equipment has never been cheaper, to just start taking photos of things. Someone like her, where she has a very clear artistic eye for how to position things, how to use light, everything you're talking about, there's still a big barrier there that I think stumps a lot of people if they're trying to impress their friends on Instagram or whatever. It's much harder than it sounds.

ANN: It is. It sounds like it'll be easier than you take a photo and go, "Well, why? How have they got the steam in their shot and steam just doesn't show up when we take a photo?" She's got a whole video on how to capture steam.

ERIC: I saw that.

ANN: Even in her book, she's got a whole chapter on composition. I learned so much looking at that, which is good for video as well, not just photography. I feel like, even though she just does food photography, she's taught a lot to me about videography, which she probably doesn't know. She's a lovely person, so she was a dream to work with. She's just a beautiful person.

ERIC: Talk about how that worked, like working with her. I assumed that you were writing your cookbook during COVID, while you were not able to travel. I think she's based in Arizona, so she presumably wasn't traveling. What was the process for the two of you collaborating for Crazy Sweet Creations?

ANN: Correct. We're still not allowed to travel in Australia. We have an international travel ban, so we're still stuck here. We cannot go anywhere. We probably could leave, but we wouldn't be allowed to come back, so that could be an issue.

The way it worked with Joanie was I spoke with her. ... Not fortunately because of COVID, but the only good thing from COVID was we were able to get a top pastry chef from a hotel who was out of work, because the hotel was shut, to do the cooking. So, to remake the recipes and on the chocolate cake note, he said, "That's the best chocolate cake I've ever had. I'm going to use that recipe now."

ERIC: All right! It's another endorsement.

ANN: He would recreate them. Some of them, I would be on a Zoom call with him for. The sugar bowls, I wanted a particular coloring on it, so I was just chatting with him over Zoom while he was making it, saying, "Can you put that drop of color on that side of the pan and that side and then pour it straight?" Just explaining it as we went, which was good fun.

Then Joanie would, initially for the first photos ... Every photo, she'd send me the layout. Say there was a dessert in the middle. She'd have something similar colored screwed up piece of paper in the middle so we could picture what it was going to look like and I would approve the layout. So I'll say, "That one, that dessert looks better photographed from the top. So can we keep that layout for a different ones, swap it out," all that sort of thing.

Some of them, I was on Zoom for the actual photo. Then, after a while, once she knew what I liked, I was confident exactly in what she was doing, we basically just pre-approved the layouts and went from there.

ERIC: This may be an impossible question to answer, but I am going to ask it anyway. All of her photos are great in the book. None of them are bad, but do you have a favorite?

ANN: Surprisingly, I really liked the carrot cake one. I don't know why. That's not my husband's favorite one, but I really like it. There's something about that one that I like.

There's one of the choux pastry that was just unfilled before you get to the actual croque-en-bouche. The lighting on that is just beautiful. It's a really simple photo, but it just captures like you're actually could just pick one up and eat it. There's so many photos there I like.

Even the photos at the beginning, which are just like the title pages ... A lot of the photos, I made it hard for her because I said what I would like is for any of the recipes that don't fill the page completely, I want the writing to go over the photo. I had to send into then a template for each one of how much room had to be completely blank in the photos.

ERIC: Oh. Right.

ANN: It makes the layout a lot harder because normally you can zoom in or zoom out on a photo because they're such high quality. But if you need a specific-sized space for writing, you then can't zoom in and zoom out anymore, so you have to get it right. It was a bit of a challenge, but she handled that challenge perfectly.

ERIC: Well, that's amazing. That was Joanie Simon, who's on Instagram and YouTube @thebiteshot.

We have time for one more follow today. I asked you for someone who makes you think, and you said Reid Hoffman, who is a venture capitalist near where I live, in Silicon Valley. Previously the CEO of LinkedIn, among many other things. He's on Twitter and LinkedIn @reidhoffman.

But the thing that you mentioned in your email that you specifically follow is his podcast, Masters of Scale. Talk about this podcast and why it makes you think.

ANN: Correct. Masters of Scale, I have listened to and picked out different ones on and off over a long time. I just love because he is who he is, obviously being involved with LinkedIn, he has the pull to be able to have whoever he wants on his podcast.

The people that he interviews are people who you'd never usually get access to. He has everyone on there from Barack Obama and Bill Gates and everyone. Anyone in business, any founders of any big startups. The lady who started Canva [Melanie Perkins]. All the different lines are all on there.

He also does podcasts as well about specific business things. If he's trying to teach one thing, he'll pull on the pool of all the podcasts he's done, examples from the different people. It's really well-produced. Your one is very well-produced. This podcast is nice and pleasant to listen to.

He just has that pull power of having amazing guests where you can really hear a lot of the stories and the things they go through. Just things I haven't thought about before, like some of the businesses that have turned a hundred years old and that there's not actually a lot of them. A lot of companies fold before then. One of the underlying things that a lot of the ones that lasted that long was that they were family companies.

ERIC: Interesting.

ANN: The reason being there is they can handle the hard times, so they're happy to take a pay cut and work for virtually nothing to get the company through a bad year. Whereas, if that was not your personal family company, you might go, "Yeah, I'm going to move on and do something else and get paid properly this year."

ERIC: Right.

ANN: I thought stuff like that, it's just the little things that you never think about that really are quite interesting and there's little nuggets of gold in everything. I don't have a startup. I'm not wanting to start some digital startup, but I just find it fascinating to listen to all these people who've had success in such varied areas in such completely different ways. Being able to listen to how they did it is really interesting.

ERIC: I bet there are some transferable lessons that you can apply to your own business, your own YouTube channel and the book sales and things like that. Do you remember anything? Is there anything that jumps out in your memory of something that you were able to transfer in that way that you're able to translate from these big tech businesses and into making your own work better and more successful?

ANN: Sure. One thing, the guy from Airbnb, his name escapes me, the guy who started that.

ERIC: Brian Chesky?

ANN: That's the one. When he started out, he said that he really wanted feedback from the clients, which is something obviously on YouTube, we get the privilege of having that direct interaction, but he didn't have that.

He decided that they would offer a free photography package to the people who were opening up their house. This is early on, obviously, not now. The people who were saying, "Yes, we'll put our house on Airbnb," they offered, "We'll send a professional photographer over to take the photos for you."

He went with the photographer. He actually didn't say, "I'm the founder," and dah, dah, dah. He just went along with the photographer so he could talk with the people and ask them about the barriers to them opening their house, or the positive things about it, or any negative experiences. Just getting that conversational feedback gave him a lot of ideas.

He said one house he went into, the person said, "Oh yeah, this is what I reckon you should do with Airbnb," and had this whole roadmap of the business plan of what he should do with it and stuff like that. There's a lot of people out there who want people to succeed and will give you good advice.

I feel like that's definitely been the case over the years on YouTube of people giving us advice on whether it be sound or whether it be, "You should do this." Everyone has access to give us advice, so some of it you have to filter and go, "Yeah, maybe not."

Other things, things like the debunking videos, people send them to me now. They just send me stuff on Twitter of stuff they want me to debunk. They're going, "I'm not sure if this works. Does it work? Does it work?" Just interacting with the people who are the people you're serving and being able to get their feedback and their interaction and let them help you build it is really important.

I think, like you guys started a Patreon page. That's invaluable that people have ownership then of it, and they are happy to get involved. That always surprises me. I'm like, "Why would people do that?" We have a Patreon page. I'm like, "Why would we people do do that? They're just so lovely." People are so supportive and I think it's a blessing.

ERIC: I was going to say initially when you were talking to about Brian Chesky going incognito to view these early Airbnb host homes, I was like, "Wait a minute, you can't do that. You're the star of this channel. People know what you look like." The fact that you're getting the feedback from people far and wide, I think that's wonderful and well put.

Another question tangentially related to Reid Hoffman and to Masters of Scale, which is that I'm here surrounded by tech. Some might say drowning in it. I'm literally in the neighborhood of one of Mark Zuckerberg's many homes. I'm just curious. You're in Melbourne, is that right?

ANN: That's correct. Yes.

ERIC: I'm just curious how you feel about all these big, mostly American technology companies and how they've grown and become these very powerful forces these days. I don't know. Do you have any particular feelings about just how they are changing everything, how entrepreneurs and investors like Reed Hoffman are changing the world for everyone?

ANN: I think that it's actually America incubates. We've got friends who run the company Bugcrowd. They're from Sydney. They of course moved to Silicon Valley because that's where you get the funding to be able to get that sort of thing off the ground. Once it's big in America, then people in Australia are like, "Oh wow, that's big," but you'd never get the support that you need to get it off the ground here with the exact same idea.

I think it's similar in a lot of countries, which was something I heard, also on Masters of Scale. They were talking about it in another country. I can't remember who was referring to it. They were saying that in Silicon Valley, I know that it's very competitive and all of that makes sense. But if they think that yours is a good idea, it's like putting it into a fish tank with the bigger fish, and the bigger fish helping out the little fish, hoping they'll become also a big fish and they've got a part in it. Whereas in a lot of other countries, it's like putting the little fish in with sharks and they just eat them. They're not incubating. They're not helping. They're just, "No, we don't want you. We don't want your competition. Out you go, or you're no good."

I feel like there's a reason why it is centralized around Silicon Valley and around some of those areas is because I think that it's been seen before that you can go from small to massive if you've got the right idea. It's not going to happen every time, obviously, so it's not just a walk in the park and everyone's going to come and fund you because your idea might not be one of those ideas. Incredibly competitive and all the rest.

I feel like there is potential there of, if people see your idea is that actual good one, they're going to incubate that and grow it and help it do well. I think there's a reason why they're all centralized over there. A lot of them are not necessarily started by an American, but if you're going to incubate them, then that's how.

ERIC: That is where to start.

ANN: Also, the US has a huge English-speaking population as well. It'd be the same like on my YouTube channel, the majority of my subscribers are US. That's the biggest audience, despite the fact that I'm in Australia, just because of the sheer volume of people. It does make sense that it's based there.

ERIC: That was Reid Hoffman, who is the host of the podcast Masters of Scale. If you want to hear another follow recommendation from Ann, you can get it by supporting Follow Friday on Patreon starting at just one dollar a month. If you go to and back us there, you'll get a bonus minisode later today. The patron of the week is Elizabeth, so shout out to Elizabeth, thank you for backing us on Patreon.

Ann, thank you so much for sharing your follows with us today. Before we go, let's make sure listeners know how to find you online. Where do you want them to follow you? One more time, tell people where to find your book.

ANN: Sure. It's YouTube, and it's HowToCookThat. The book is Crazy Sweet Creations. It's available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble and all the bookstores. It's actually officially released in stores last weekend, so it's actually out there.

ERIC: Wonderful. Follow me on Twitter @heyheyesj and this show on Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok @followfridaypod.

Follow Friday's theme music was written by me and performed by Yona Marie. Our show artwork was illustrated by Dodi Hermawan. That's all for this week. This is Eric Johnson, reminding you to talk about people behind their backs. And when you do, say something nice. See you next Friday!

ERIC [AD]: One more time, thank you to for sponsoring this episode of follow friday. I was talking with Justin, the engineer who made the site, and he describes it as a 24-hour movie, dedicated to internet culture. I love that! There are only 86,400 seconds in a day, and a bunch of those have already been claimed, so if you want to take part in this really cool art project, you should hop on over to

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