Follow Friday
A quest for cookies, Tinder robots, imaginary video games

Bijan Stephen (Eclipsed)

An illustration of a man with glasses smiling and crossing his arms, underneath the text "Follow Friday: Bijan Stephen."
Eclipsed host Bijan Stephen
Today on Follow Friday, journalist and podcaster Bijan Stephen talks about his new history podcast Eclipsed and recommends four of his favorite accounts to follow online:

- Someone he'd like to be friends with: Tim Rogers, @actionbutton
- Someone he's followed forever: Hrishikesh Hirway, @hrishihirway
- Someone super-talented who's still under the radar: Nicole He, @nicolehe
- Someone who makes the internet a better place: Leon Chang, @leyawn

You can get bonus episodes of Follow Friday every week — including a bonus follow recommendation from Bijan, coming next week — when you back Follow Friday on Patreon, starting at just $1 a month.

Follow us:

- Follow Bijan on Instagram @bijancakes and on Twitter and Twitch at @bijanstephen
- Follow us @followfridaypod on Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok and find clips and full episodes on our YouTube channel
- Follow Eric on Twitter @heyheyesj

Theme song written by Eric Johnson, and performed by Yona Marie. Show art by Dodi Hermawan.

Thank you to our amazing patrons: Jon, Justin, Amy, Yoichi, Shinri, and Elizabeth

Full transcript of this episode
Click to expand
ERIC JOHNSON: Today on Follow Friday, we're going to talk about Pac-Man, a quest for cookies, driving down Sunset Boulevard, canoeing on Twitter, Soylent, Tinder, and imaginary video games. That's in a minute with journalist and podcaster Bijan Stephen.

But first, today's show is brought to you by Timber, a modern hosting platform for craft-loving indie podcasters. And when you host your show with Timber, you can also get free professional podcast reviews from industry experts, like me. Check it out at

Today's show is also brought to you by RePod, a new app for people who love podcasts, where listeners can connect with the hosts of their favorite shows. I'm on there all the time, sharing some of my favorite podcasts that I've been listening to, and I'll tell you more about that later in the show. But for now, I hope you'll download RePod on the App Store or Google Play and say hi. Just go to to get started.

[theme song]

ERIC: I'm Eric Johnson. Welcome to Follow Friday, the 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.

If this is your first episode of the show, please take a moment now and follow or subscribe in your podcast app. It's free, and you'll get fresh interviews with your favorite creators every week.

Today on the show is Bijan Stephen, a journalist who has worked for places like The Nation, Vice, and The Verge. He's the host of a new history podcast called Eclipsed, which is about true stories that were overshadowed by historical events. You can find Bijan on Twitter @bijanstephen, and you can find Eclipsed in your podcast app or at

Bijan, welcome to Follow Friday!

BIJAN: Thanks for having me. It's wonderful to be here.

ERIC: So excited to meet you, talk to you. I was listening to the first episode of Eclipsed yesterday, and it's about something that happened on July 20th, 1969 … but not the moon landing. Do you want to tease briefly what that episode is actually about?

BIJAN: Yeah, happy to. So the war in Vietnam was going on and, obviously, it was a big deal in history. It wasn't the backdrop to anything because all these events were happening simultaneously. But there were a bunch of other people who were sort of involved in Vietnam, who weren't soldiers. And we follow one of them, who is an Australian musician named Cathy Wayne.

Her story, in brief, is that she flew to... she's Australian. Australia is close to Vietnam, which is why she was going abroad. And there's a whole thing about Australian musicians going abroad in that time because it was a huge boost to their careers.

In any case, she goes abroad. She goes to Vietnam, recruited by the government to sing for the troops to boost their morale—USO, Bob Hope, think about it that way. And while she's on an American military base in the middle of her second tour, she's killed while performing. And we tell the story of exactly what happened and why no one heard about it.

And the answer is because of the moon landing, but there's a lot of history there. We interviewed some of her friends and family and, yeah, it was interesting doing all that reporting and talking to the people who have been there. I don't know, war is a lot. War is hell.

ERIC: Yeah.

BIJAN: It's a bit heavy for a first series. And we are a show composed of different mini-series, sort of a lot of entry points. Our next series is about a lake. Get excited: the lake disappeared. Woo, spooky! But yeah, I thought this one was a pretty fitting one to start with.

ERIC: It's an amazing premise for a podcast. I love this idea of overshadowed/eclipsed historical events. I remember reading, many years ago, a book by Bob Harris that was about international relations. And there was a running joke in the book — but it was a true thing. It wasn't just made up. It was a running joke in the book about all these incredibly important events in international relations that just happened the same day that Anna Nicole Smith died and so, therefore, were not covered by American media at all. So many things coincidentally happened on the same day and it's just like, that didn't happen anymore. It's just bizarre.

BIJAN: Yeah. And I think our show is highlighting things like that. I think we as a public have a very selective memory. I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing, but a lot of things go under-covered and they're fun to think about decades later.

ERIC: So because these stories are eclipsed, it makes researching them, I assume, harder than researching something that's famous. So how do you go about finding a story that is a good fit for the show?

BIJAN: That's a great question. It's our proprietary algorithm. No, I'm kidding. Initially, it was just us trawling around online and in books, trying to figure out stories and then pitching them to each other and our bosses. And now, it's more like everyone does it because we're a weekly show. We're a narrative, weekly reported history show, which a lot of work goes into every episode.

Right now, it's more self-directed. We have a story meeting every week and people come in with ideas that they've encountered or found and we kick the tires. So, it's a product of our individual sort of obsessions and things that we're actually interested in.

Yeah, we do our best to find stories that we think are fascinating. And the other thing is, to be clear, we are sticking to the premise but not as strictly as some people might want. Because one of the things that we found while trying to make a bunch of episodes this summer was that the framing is good, but sometimes it's limiting. And we wanted to be able to tell the stories that we wanted to tell.

So some of them we'll be like, "We know you kind of know about it, but you don't know this about it." But the thing that binds all these stories together is that—this is maybe revealing too much—internally, we like to say that they're a bit magically realist. They're kind of like fairytales, and that's the secret sauce. You'll have to subscribe through the end of the year to get some more of that secret sauce, baby.

ERIC: And just fairytales, some of them are pretty dark and scary. Yeah.

BIJAN: Some of them are pretty dark, but some of them are very funny.

ERIC: All right. Well, the name of the show is Eclipsed. You can subscribe everywhere you get podcasts. But now, let's find out who Bijan Stephen follows online. You can follow along with us today. Every person he recommends will be linked in the show notes and in the transcript at

Bijan, before the show, I gave you a list of categories, and I asked you to tell me four people you follow who fit in those categories. Your first pick is in the category "someone you'd like to be friends with." And you said Tim Rogers, who's on YouTube at @ActionButton. He's also on Patreon @ActionButton and on Twitter @108.

I've heard of this channel before and I started watching one of Tim's videos once, like a couple of months ago. But I honestly got intimidated by how long the video was. So let's start there. Could you explain what Tim covers in his YouTube videos and why you love it?

BIJAN: Yeah. A very brief history of Tim Rogers is he was a video producer at Kotaku and got sort of well-known online. And he's also a game designer and translator. But at Kotaku, he sort of became well-known … and he also ran this review site called Action Button, which is why everything's called Action Button.

It's a very good video game review site. It's very scathing and, I think, really smart. The criticism is very thoughtful and empathetic, but also biting. In any case, while he was at Kotaku, he got notable for producing these incredibly long YouTube videos about video games and they're legendary—hours long. Not one hour, think like four or five.

ERIC: Yeah. Martin Scorsese would look at the runtime and be like, "Hmm, that's a little much."

BIJAN: Yeah, but they're really beautiful. So he left Kotaku recently and started focusing on his own YouTube channel and Patreon. He has put out a bunch of different videos. I think in this season, I think there are what? Seven, I want to say?

ERIC: That sounds right. Yeah.

BIJAN: And they're all really, really good. The one that got me hooked and the reason that I went back and read and watched a lot of his stuff was this seven-hour video he did for this Japanese video game called Tokimeki Memorial, which is a dating sim and one of the greatest games of all time. I'm now convinced, after watching this video.

ERIC: Really? I've never heard of it.

BIJAN: Yeah, because it wasn't translated into English.

ERIC: Oh, so you have to know Japanese, or you play a hacked version of it that's been translated?

BIJAN: Well, here's what happened. No, I just watched the video. I watched the video because Tim speaks Japanese fluently because he lived over there for a while. I think recently he translated the American version of Moon, which just came out for the Nintendo Switch. It's like an old anti-RPG. That's maybe too specific.

In the review, he played through the game twice, in full. So if you watch the whole thing, you get to see the game played at least twice. And I thought it was a really fascinating document. I was instantly engrossed by the mix of personal experience and personal history and also the degree and quality of his criticism.

I'm a music critic at The Nation and I like to think that I know a little bit about doing criticism and what it takes to do it. And Tim is just a top-class critic. The blend of his own experiences and knowing all of the context of this stuff, and putting it into a video format is really difficult because it makes the process much longer, I think. But you see all the context.

One of the pieces of archival footage that I saw in the video was a bunch of Japanese men who are in their teens and 20s lining up to buy this video game explicitly marketed to girls. And it was like … I guess maybe not explicit, but it was one of those things where it's like, man, this is really cool. I can see the demographics of the people lining up to buy this game. And also I can see why it was so popular and who it was popular with.

ERIC: Okay. That's actually really helpful —

BIJAN: I can keep going, but…

ERIC: Okay. This is actually really helpful because he's not just reviewing the mechanics or the aesthetics of the game. He's also talking about the culture around the game. Is that right?

BIJAN: And that goes for all of his videos, I think. And it's interesting because the way I think about criticism is that I think good criticism is about both bringing in all of the relevant historical context and the relevant narrative context, and marrying it with your genuine feelings about something.

So, sometimes you bring in personal experiences, sometimes you just talk about how a thing made you feel, because I think the best criticism is personal. There's no such thing as an objective critic. And I think bringing your own subjectivity to a work and reacting to it as a participant in the work is really what's important.

And in video games, it's harder to do, I think, because of the climate online, but also because the medium hasn't been around that long. And obviously, it goes very deep, but it's one of those things that I really admire and respect Tim's work, because I think it's really brilliant.

He did a video about Pac-Man, which...

ERIC: That was the one that I started and gave up on because I was just like, "Oh my God, it's three hours long!" And that's the shortest video he's ever made!

BIJAN: It's really good.

ERIC: I want to see it.

BIJAN: I believe in part of it, he's standing in front of his old high school talking about being in high school, playing Pac-Man. He's just in a field in front of a school that is his school and it was just like, "Wow, why would you do that?" I love that.

The Doom video is also equally good, just about the mechanics of what it is like to be the Doom guy. I don't know, if it's for you, it's for you. If it's not, I'd still say give it a try because you never know.

ERIC: I forget, have you ever been a video game critic yourself, or you're thinking about this more from the perspective of being a music critic?

BIJAN: Well, that's an interesting question. I've written for video game magazines and I write a column for the Believer about video games. So I have done a bit of criticism occasionally, but video game criticism is something that I indulge in rarely.

ERIC: When you're playing a game or you are critiquing a game, do you find...? I don't know. I just wonder about your personal experience with analyzing a video game that you're playing. Is that something that you enjoy doing? Do you find that to be something...?

BIJAN: Yeah. When I write about video games, like for my Believer column, I try to be more reflective, because I like analyzing the experiences. But I think for me in writing about video games, I feel like the games are contexts to talk about other things. Because games are an imperfect model of our world, right?

The idea of, for example, a tabletop role-playing game is that it models the things that we do in real life with a stat system and these dice rolls, which simulate randomness, which is mitigated by your skills. Your skills boost what is a bad roll into a mediocre one, which is fine.

But I like using them to think about different aspects of the world. Because all games have a perspective and it's interesting to explore what they're actually trying to say. One of the essays that I wrote for The Believer was about doing jobs in video games and how it's actually kind of work and tying this into a larger sort of anti-work sentiment.

Because it's like, you work your job for eight hours or whatever, you come home, and you boot up your PlayStation and play The Witcher 3 or whatever. And you're just doing tasks for another guy! And it's kind of a job, and an enjoyable one because I think the difference in games is there's a sense of mastery, which is not true of all jobs. I think a lot of jobs are more tedious because they're not gamified, which is a very dark thing to think about.

I may have just predicted the future, I hope not. Please do not gamify your workplaces. So thinking about the aspects of games, the aspects that games try to address is something that I'm really interested in doing.

ERIC: Maybe games should have just stopped at Pac-Man; just eat constantly, consume drugs, escape death. That's it.

BIJAN: I think you can make a compelling argument. I think Tim does, somewhere in the video.

ERIC: All right. Well, that was Tim Rogers, who is on YouTube @ActionButton…

BIJAN: I should say, I did meet him briefly once. We were at a friend's place and there was an emulator version of the Japanese version of, I think, the SNES Dungeons and Dragons game.

ERIC: Wow.

BIJAN: And there were at least two people there who had played the game enough to know every route through. I was sitting there playing with another person and Tim was live-translating the Japanese. I was just like, "This is great." And then I had to leave and I was, "Man, I wish I had gotten to stay."

ERIC: Yeah. Oh my gosh.

BIJAN: I was just like, "Man, I want to be friends with that guy."

ERIC: Well, that was Tim Rogers, who is on YouTube @ActionButton. Bijan, let's move on to your next follow. I asked you for someone that you've followed forever and you said Hrishikesh Hirway, who is on Twitter and Instagram @HrishiHirway.

Hrishikesh is one of my favorite follows too, and he's one of those people who has done like a million creative projects, each of which has its own passionate fan base. So, what was your on-ramp, what was your entry point into following him?

BIJAN: That is a great question. It was, I believe, I went to XOXO in... I'll have to look this up. Yeah, in 2018... first of all, you're right, I should explain what XOXO is. The website says, "XOXO is an experimental festival for independent artists and creators who work on the internet," which is a long way of saying it is just the coolest people online who make the coolest stuff. Maybe not the coolest people online, but I think it's the people who are using the internet, I think, in a really interesting way, and the festival brings all of them together.

I think it's fantastic. I went with my old boss at The Verge, Laura Hudson, who is also a great follow. The reason I picked Hrishi is because I met him at this and I met him with a bunch of other really amazing people, who I'm still sort of friends with, like Taylor Moore, who I do Fun City with; Demi Adejuyigbe; Anita Sarkeesian, and just a bunch of other really cool people.

So we hung out all weekend and Hrishi took us... The festival was held in Portland, and Hrishi took us on a cookie quest. We just walked around the city finding the best cookies and pastries. By the end of it, we had all this sugar. We were like, "Alright, this is great." That was fun.

And I think it was him who said, "Yeah, no, it was just an excuse to befriend you guys." And I was like, "Damn, this guy's cool as hell." But yeah, I was also already a fan because his podcast, Song Exploder, is incredible.

ERIC: Explain what Song Exploder is. I mean, it's a pretty famous podcast; people probably know, but…

BIJAN: Yeah, and now a Netflix show. But Hrishi interviews musicians who have done songs that you might know. But the way he interviews them is really different, in that he talks to them and interviews them, but he cuts himself out of all the answers.

The questions are crafted such that it's a musician having a conversation about a song that they made and they get really deep and really open. And it's really, really beautiful. So, the musicians also bring the stems, the raw version of every track and they talk through their choices in making a song. So it's like you get to see… If you like the television show, How Stuff Works or How It's Made...

ERIC: Oh, right, where it's like the factory of "here's how we make a chocolate chip cookie" or something like that. Yeah.

BIJAN: Yeah, except it's an artisan doing it and they're explaining their process. And it's really this beautiful deconstruction. I think Hrishi is a masterful interviewer.

So I was already a fan and then I met him and I was like, "Wow, this guy is actually cool." And it's nice to meet people that you think are both doing good work and also are really nice in real life. But yeah, that was a great week for me. I was like, "Wow, I got to go back to this festival."

And then 2019 happened. Well, I couldn't go to 2019 for whatever reason, I can't remember why. But then 2020 happened, and the festival hasn't been held since, #COVID

ERIC: Oh, man. Well, Hrishi recently launched a newsletter called Accept Cookies. I guess you were in the beta test for that.

BIJAN: I think so, IRL beta test. He also does another show with Samin Nosrat, who I think is really cool, too

ERIC: That show is Home Cooking. That's actually the thing that I probably have the strongest association with, just because I have listened to every episode of that show, some of them multiple times.

And what you were saying about Song Exploder is really important, that he cuts himself out of those interviews, even though — it's not like he's a wilting flower. It's not like he's not interesting. He's very funny, very smart, very … hyperverbal. He's a very interesting person to listen to, but I think what you're saying is that he creatively was like, "No, we've got to put the spotlight on the artist for this. This is the important thing," which is a very selfless thing to do.

BIJAN: It's a fascinating decision. Also, he himself is a musician, which is the extra dimension to all of this

ERIC: Yeah, that's right.

BIJAN: And I really like his music. I remember I was living in LA for a minute a few years back and remember playing one of his songs and driving down Sunset Boulevard and being like, "Oh, this is it. This is great."

His old band was called The One AM Radio. I think he makes music with Lakeith Stanfield sometimes and he just put out a song with Yo-Yo Ma. So he's doing his music... he's on the level, which is partially why it's so interesting to hear him talk to other musicians, because he knows the process.

ERIC: Yeah. I think the other thing that he's probably pretty well-known for is West Wing Weekly. Are you a West Wing fan?

BIJAN: I am not. I've never seen the show. I was just like, "Oh, that's not a podcast for me."

ERIC: I would say so, yeah.

BIJAN: Maybe this is the time, maybe I will get into the West Wing. But post-Obama, I don't know, chief.

ERIC: This has come up on this podcast before. I feel like if you caught the West Wing wave in the pre-2016 era, you'd probably love it. And watching it now … I don't know.

BIJAN: Yeah, it's rough. But yeah, I was thinking about XO and I was like, man, I want to talk about one of these people because I think they're all great. So you should go follow Demi, you should go follow Anita, you should go follow Taylor Moore. And there were a bunch of other people also, but…

ERIC: Have you talked with Hrishi or worked with him at all since that XOXO?

BIJAN: Oh, yeah. I actually spoke with him a few months ago about this project I was possibly going to do, and he was very encouraging. I didn't end up doing it, it was a really enlightening conversation.

ERIC: That's great.

BIJAN: Yeah. He gives great advice, too. The guy who does it all.

ERIC: Well, that was Hrishikesh Hirway, who is on Twitter @HrishiHirway. We're going to take a quick break now, but we'll be back in a minute with Bijan Stephen.

Today's show is brought to you by Timber, a finely crafted hosting platform for your podcast. I tried Timber out recently and I love the clean design: It's super quick and easy to change your show settings, or look at the analytics. And when you host your podcast on Timber, you get access to an amazing, private Discord community called The Edit. I'm on there and so are a bunch of other podcast industry professionals and we provide detailed, professional reviews of podcasts from Timber users. So, when you sign up for Timber, you'll get two of those for free every year. Start your 2-week free trial today at

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Hey, a quick content warning before we get back to the show: In this next segment, Bijan and I briefly talk about an art project that … imitates a part of the male anatomy. So if you're listening with your kids, or possibly your parents, and you don't want to hear that, you can skip ahead about 5 and a half minutes to the next follow recommendation.

Welcome back to Follow Friday. Bijan, let's move on to your next follow. I asked you for "someone super talented who's still under the radar." And you said Nicole He, who's on Twitter @nicolehe. Nicole is a creative technologist and a videogame designer. And you said in your email to me that you've been friends with her for a long time. How do you meet?

BIJAN: She was one of my first friends in New York, actually. So I moved to New York in, I think, 2013, so I've been here for a bit. And the first memory I have was back when you could canoe on Twitter, which is to say you could reply to your friends and random people wouldn't jump in and say weird s**t, I was in a canoe with her and I don't remember how this happened, but I think she ended up inviting all of us to her apartment, or no, to another friend's apartment.

And we all showed up there and she DM'd a game of Dungeons and Dragons for us because I'd always wanted to play D&D and I never had a group. She was my first DM and we played, I think, it was second edition or basic edition. Nicole, don't get mad at me. I can't remember. But it was one of the versions of D&D, one of the earlier versions of D&D, where you make a character and they can die instantly. You have three hit points in, anything could kill you.

And it was just really fun. I remember thinking, "Oh, I want to be friends with that person." And then we've been friends, basically, since then, but it's just funny because, back in the day... Her journey through career stuff has been really fascinating to watch.

At the time, she was working at Kickstarter on one of their outreach teams, I think, for tech, I want to say. And this was like 2013, 2014. And then she quit her job and went to ITP, which is the NYU interdisciplinary tech program. And she retrained as a technology person.

It was very funny because while she was in school, some of her projects started going viral. Like she made this thing called Soylent Dick, which was a dick made out of Soylent that would squirt Soylent. And it was very funny. It was a great joke.

ERIC: Well, specifically, it would only do that when you typed something positive about Soylent or you tweeted something positive about Soylent.

BIJAN: Exactly. Good s**t. And I remember the next one she did was like the True Love Tinder Robot, which I think was very famous.

ERIC: This is really clever; explain what this was.

BIJAN: Basically, it was like a capacitive, handprint thing. There was a phone in front of it. So you put your hands in the handprint thing and it would check the electrical conductivity of your skin, and swipe left or right on the phone based on whether or not your palms were aroused, looking at this person, which is really funny.

It was a great commentary on dating apps. Since then, she was working at Google for a while. She taught at NYU. And now, I was texting with her today because she makes games now and one of them just got signed to Devolver, which is one of the bigger indie publishers.

ERIC: Oh, that's so exciting! Yeah.

BIJAN: Yeah. I think it's really cool. It's just been really wonderful to be friends with her and see all this stuff up-close because I think she's really brilliant; one of the people that you will definitely know about in the next 10 years.

ERIC: Yeah, keep an eye out.

BIJAN: So, get in on the ground floor, baby.

ERIC: So she DM'd a game of Dungeons and Dragons for you. Have you ever played video games with her?

BIJAN: Oh, yes.

ERIC: Okay, I'm wondering about this. So she's a videogame designer. Is she analyzing the mechanics or looking for bugs? I wonder what it's like to play with a designer.

BIJAN: Remember when I was talking about the Tim Rogers playing D&D; that was her apartment.

ERIC: It all comes around.

BIJAN: Yes, and her fiancé was like, "I want to play a 10-person Bomberman on the Sega Saturn," and made it happen. But no, playing games with her is really fun. It's not about analyzing the stuff, really, but I think she genuinely enjoys doing it. Also, she streams on Twitch, which you should go follow her because she streams, I think it's Thursdays and Sundays.

She streams a bunch of weird games from the past. And in those, she'll talk more about the mechanics. She played one that, I can't remember what it's called, but you controlled it with your voice and it was an old game from the early 2000s. It was very buggy.

ERIC: I think she made a game like this as well. I highly recommend, by the way, visiting her website, which is, where she has all of her tech projects. And yeah, one of them is a game where you have to yell at your computer to play it.

BIJAN: It's called ENHANCE.COMPUTER and it's a take on SVU, the cop procedural or something. "Enhance!" And you can actually do it. But she's really wonderful. I love hanging out with her. Online, I think you will too.

ERIC: Well, get in on the ground floor, as you said. And I looked up her Twitch. It's nicole__he.


ERIC: Well, that was Nicole He, who's on Twitter @nicolehe. We have time for one more follow today. Bijan, I asked you for someone who makes the internet a better place. And you said Leon Chang, who is on Twitter @leyawn.

I know Leon as one of a very small number of people who has an animated Twitter profile picture, for some technical reason that I don't understand, but you also know him in real life, right?

BIJAN: Yeah. The profile picture thing is interesting because there are still a few people who have it. You can't get them now, but it was back when Twitter let you upload gifs as your profile picture. And if you just kept it and did not change it for the last 10 years or whatever, you would just get grandfathered in.

So you can't upload them now, but there are very few people who have them. And it's really funny to see that bit of internet history.

ERIC: Katie Notopoulos is another one. She has these little balloons that change colors.

BIJAN: I think John Herman has one, too.

ERIC: Oh yeah, with the egg that turns into an eye or something.

BIJAN: Yeah. So it's a very select group of internet power users. But Leon is great because I think he's one of the funniest people online. He's just so goddamn funny and it's, I think, part of what we would call Weird Twitter, or I guess the loose collection of people who post humor derived directly from Something Awful.

ERIC: It's been long enough since Something Awful. You should probably explain an elementary version. This was a very foundational part of the internet.

BIJAN: Basically, Something Awful was an internet forum created by a guy who was self-evidently a piece of s**t, Rich Kyanka, who died recently, actually—rest in piss. But he created this website that, it was a forum where you could post whatever you wanted, except the format was that you had to pay $10 to register a username and be able to post.

What that meant was it grew this weird culture that was very impossible to understand outside of it. But a lot of those users migrated away when Twitter came around and they brought that inscrutable style of posting to Twitter. And it's some of the funniest stuff I've ever seen.

Basically, Something Awful created the language that we use on the internet now, is the short version of that story.

ERIC: And Leon is one of those Something Awful participants.

BIJAN: Leon is one of those former posters. And yeah, I think he's a delightful person. Hanging out with him is really fun. During the pandemic, we got really into playing Smash Brothers. He's really good at that. These days, mostly he makes music also, I should say. He's a very good musician. So he makes music, he posts online, and he also streams on Twitch now.

ERIC: Well, and specifically, out of his music, at least two of his albums that he's released as an electronic musician are soundtracks to video games that don't exist. They are soundtracks to video games called Bird World and the sequel, which I'm forgetting, Return to the Bird World?

Yeah, but the games have never been made. This is not inspired by some game he's played. This is imagining a game.

BIJAN: And also, there were beautiful art books that came with both of them that detailed the world. It's really smart stuff. And the music is really good. I don't know, he's really great. I think one of the other things that he's very good at is savagely owning dudes online, which is something that you need. That makes the internet better.

But yeah, his streams are fun. He's a naturally gifted gamer. He recently played through most of the Souls games and is making his way through the back collection of games kind of like those. I think he's a really good follow, though he does not post that much anymore.

ERIC: Yeah, another one of those.

BIJAN: Smart money is on leaving, honestly.

ERIC: Well, that's bad for the future of this podcast, but OK. So, musical talent and being very funny at savagely owning people, those are specialized skills. You have to be actually good at those. But what do you think are some things that the rest of us should do to make the internet a better place the way that Leon does? Is there anything that you think we can learn from following him?

BIJAN: 100%, yeah. Don't post when you're angry. Don't take the obvious bait. That's a big one.

ERIC: But it's so delicious! I love obvious bait!

BIJAN: I think the main thing is just remembering that you don't have to engage. You just don't. No one's waiting for your take. Truly, unless somebody is waiting for your take, no one's waiting for your take. And usually, it makes it worse.

I think the lesson is post judiciously. Use your brain. That was also, you could say sort of the lesson of Something Awful, or if you posted something s**tty or not funny, they would bully you.

ERIC: Right.

BIJAN: That's basically Twitter. So just be careful.

ERIC: All right. Well, that was Leon Chang, who is on Twitter @leyawn. Bijan, thank you for sharing these follows with us today. Before we go, let's make sure listeners know where to find you online. Where do you want them to follow you?

BIJAN: Oh, yeah. You can find me on Twitter, you can follow me on Twitch, and you can follow me on Instagram. My Instagram is @bijancakes, which is a different handle. It got verified for whatever reason, which means I can't change it.

ERIC: Oh, no.

BIJAN: I mean, I'm not mad at it, whatever. It could be worse, but it's not unified, which is tough. It's satisfying to have everything in the right place. My Twitch name is the same as my Twitter name, @bijanstephen

ERIC: Well, follow me on Twitter @HeyHeyESJ and don't forget to follow or subscribe to this show in your podcast app. If you like this episode of Follow Friday, then check out the past interviews with Allegra Frank from Slate, Devindra Hardawar from The Filmcast and Nick Quah from Vulture.

Follow Friday's theme music was written by me and performed by Yona Marie. Our show art 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!

One more thing before we go … I want to thank Jon and Justin from for supporting Follow Friday on Patreon! Transistor is an independent podcast hosting company with a simple, modern interface for uploading audio, distributing your podcast, and viewing analytics. You can also make as many podcasts on Transistor as you want for no extra cost, and you can invite additional users to access the show settings, upload episodes, view analytics, and more. Check them out at Transistor.FM.

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