: Today on Follow Friday, we're going to talk about horse medicine, puppets, Florida men, the best celebrity chef in the world, old-school bloggers, Apple fanboys, and why the year 2020 was like a Japanese roller coaster. That's in a minute with Dave Pell from NextDraft.
But first, I want to tell you about Follow Friday's new YouTube channel. I made this channel for a specific reason. Let's say you want to tell a friend about the show and, specifically, a person who was recommended on this podcast? Well, going forward, every single person recommended on this show will get their own YouTube video. So you can just send the link to that video to your friend, not the whole podcast, way more convenient.
You can find the channel by searching for Follow Friday podcast on YouTube. Or you can go to followfriday.co/youtube
. Check it out!
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 support the show and get bonus episodes for as little as a dollar a month at patreon.com/followfriday
Today on the show is Dave Pell, also known as the managing editor of the internet. He's the author of the excellent email newsletter NextDraft, which I've read for many years. Every weekday, Dave combs through dozens of news sources and identifies the 10 most interesting stories that you should know.
You should sign up for free at nextdraft.com
. Dave, welcome to Follow Friday.
: Thanks a lot for having me on.
: It's so nice to meet you at long last. I feel like I mainly think of you as your little cartoon avatar with the steampunk goggles. So finally putting a face to the name. DAVE
: Yeah, luckily my avatar doesn't age. I used to have one that looked more like me, but then people would be shocked when they saw me that I was grayer than he was. So I decided to go with the more animated version.
: I've got a cartoon avatar, too. This is the secret, everlasting life. Well, you have something really exciting on the horizon, which is that in a couple of months, you're putting out a book, I think, based on stuff that you've written for NextDraft. Is that right?
: Uh, NextDraft was for sort of an outline for it. The book is called, Please Scream Inside Your Heart: Breaking News and Nervous Breakdowns in the Year that Wouldn't End
. So it's based on my work in NextDraft, but it's really much broader than that, much more personal than that.
It sort of takes a look at the year 2020 from a perspective of all the crazy stuff that happened to us, that we may have not been able to absorb in the real time and it offers a time capsule for that, but more importantly, it sort of explains how we got there in terms of our relationship with technology and media, the rise of Trump, and the broader meaning of some of the things that happened, especially in the second half of the year.
And for that, it's really taken through the eyes of my parents, who were both Holocaust survivors. So I try to channel some of their lessons for people who weren't sure how serious what was happening to our democracy was. They might not believe it from me, but I think they will believe it from my parents.
: And so yeah, putting that stuff in historical context, I think if you'd asked someone January of this year, they would have been like, "Hell no, I don't want to look back at 2020." But we've now gotten enough distance that I think people are... They want to look back to the Trump years. They want to look back at just what's happened over the past year and a half and start to think about, you know, what can we learn from this very traumatic time?
: Yeah, for sure. And I totally understand people's first reaction being, oh my God, I don't want to relive 2020, but over the years, writing my daily newsletter and covering the traumatic years and the most traumatic year of our lifetimes, I sort of have gained a skill to share news or share information in a way that's digestible and sometimes funny, often personal.
So it's definitely not just a rehashing of that crazy year. It really is more about how did the internet become a place where ... [it] was basically the opposite of what we thought we were building in the early days of the internet. Why is it that news channels only cover one story at a time? Why is it that people think that they're Batman and have to be notified of every news story on their phone as they're walking down the street, you know, why do you need to know about a mudslide in Turkey when you're waiting in line at the bank?
You probably don't, but you feel like you do, so there's a lot of those issues as well. So there's a lot of humor, tech, media, it's really everything I've sort of learned and been thinking about over the last 20 years, working and writing on the web.
: Well, no one's better qualified to analyze the news than the managing editor of the internet. But for today, let's just focus on a few of the people you follow. Listeners can follow along with us today. Every person Dave recommends will be linked in the show notes and in the transcript at followfridaypodcast.com.
Dave, 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 who makes you think, and you took an unusual route here. Rather than picking just one person, you said the magazine The Atlantic, which you can find all over social media and at theatlantic.com
Like I said, you're looking at all these different ... dozens of news sources every day. Why specifically do you say the Atlantic makes you think?
: Uh, yeah, thanks for letting me sort of break the rules a little bit and pick a group instead of an individual. But I really think the Atlantic of all the news outlets that I check daily, and I check a lot, probably about 75 a day. No one did a better job of getting 2020 right, and the whole Trump era right. And I really think they deserve a lot of credit.
Before the Trump era, even, I don't think there was any old school publication that made a better transition to the internet and to the online world than the Atlantic. I mean, there are other news organizations like the Times or the Washington Post that do a great job online, but they weren't quite as ... in the category, I would say, of sort of stodgy east coast as the Atlantic, more something, you'd see somebody reading on and business class on a plane, as opposed to a really mainstream publication with broad reach.
So first they made that transition to being an online publication and then they just did an incredible job of predicting what was happening during the Trump era, explaining what was happening and really not having any fear or indecisiveness about making it very clear what was happening. And I can just share a few examples of writers that did an incredible job for the Atlantic during 2020. And they still do a great job now.
One is named Anne Applebaum, uh, she's the author, most recently of a book called Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism
. And she is not a liberal, necessarily. She's probably more a conservative thinker, but she saw the threat of Trumpism and she saw how that threat was being mirrored across Europe, among people who were her friends or former friends, in some cases.
And she was surprised to see how people, who ordinarily she would agree with politically, were being pulled towards this authoritarian bent. And she really spent a lot of time writing about that during 2020 and before. And it was just a lot of really important writing. And I thought, really accurate writing.
And I mentioned my parents earlier, they are fully on board with her take, or they were anyway. Another person who did a great job as this guy named Adam Serwer. And he wrote an article called "The cruelty is the point
: Very famous now.
: Yeah, very famous saying a lot of people have sort of co-opted it, really. But he was the one who came up with it and really explaining how the politics of Trumpism work.
That it's not a mistake, the attacks on people or the things that we would find to sort of sound like schoolyard bullying, and a turnoff, was actually the point of what he was doing. There's a writer there named Yascha Mounk who wrote an article last March, I think it was. Yeah, March of 2020 saying "Cancel Everything
And at the time that he wrote that article, it was almost crazy to think of canceling everything for most of us. But within a week, everybody was canceling everything. Ed Yong, their science writer, won a Pulitzer for his absolutely unbelievable explanatory journalism about the COVID eruption and how it moved in and out of our society and up and down the surge charts over time.
Really great explaining. James Hamblin also did a great job with that for them. And they have other great writers like Amanda Mull and Ian Bogost who write more about the intersection of culture and our lives. But I just think overall, they did a great job. Even their editor, Jeffrey Goldberg, was the one who broke the story about Trump calling troops "suckers" and "losers."
: Wow. It feels like a million years ago, but …
: Yeah, it was 2020, even pretty far into 2020. That one weird thing. As I had my friends or proofreaders, go over my book, that was the number one response, like, "Oh my God, I can't believe that happened in 2020. I thought that was another year. I don't remember that happening."
It's so overwhelming, but I really think if people could pick one publication to follow, to explain in very clear terms, the politics of the moment, I would give The Atlantic my vote for that. Not daily news necessarily because they're not just really covering minute by minute news. All their articles are essentially features, but I really give them a ton of credit.
: Yeah. I mean, I'm wondering, obviously you mentioned all these names, all these incredibly talented ... this dream team of reporters and writers and editors who work there, but I'm wondering, do you think that the reason they got it so right is because they weren't under that pressure of covering the daily news?
I mean, you certainly have feature writers and editors at places like the New York Times and the Washington Post and everything, but I wonder if maybe the magazine format encourages reporters to look at macro issues in a different way, to analyze what's going on in the world in a way that's maybe more ... useful. What do you think?
: Yeah, I think definitely when the news tsunami was hitting us in 2020, anything that would get people to stop and focus on one article or focus on one idea for a little longer was definitely good. They certainly weren't the only people that were warning about, our slide towards authoritarianism, but they did the best job of explaining it.
And maybe that's due to the magazine angle. One other writer there that fits into that idea. This guy McKay Coppins, who, one thing that he did that was so valuable during the year was that he would basically clear his browser cache and then he would sign up for Facebook as a conservative and follow a lot of the most pro-Trump news sources and join a lot of those groups.
And then he would see the influx of coverage that came to him and he didn't just read it for two seconds and then post an article saying, "Look at how crazy this is, right?" We all can do that. We all saw a thousand articles and a thousand tweets about that. What he did was he absorbed it for a month or two and then said, "Here's what I felt happening inside of me and how I began to question what I knew was reality because it was so powerful, getting this drug injected into my veins for a couple months."
So I think that's an example of writing a feature, allowing you to have enough time to really get the whole story, because. We had enough snap judgments over the last few years to last everybody a lifetime.
: Yeah. Right now we're going through the latest iteration of this meme or this idea, all these people who are taking drugs intended for horses
, rather than opting for a free, safe, vetted vaccine. And there's a lot of folks on the left, on my side of the political aisle, who are snapping to mockery and to "Look at these stupid people taking this horse medicine." But I think there is a lot of blame that should be directed, a lot of attention that should be directed at who is spreading that message. Who's getting that out there? Who are the people in power who are influencing folks to go down that route?
So I think that's a really fascinating thing, is to put yourself in the position of a person who is being influenced. That that's a wonderful idea, a really vital idea for a project these days.
: Yeah. And I think when it comes to ivermectin and other stories about sort of extreme behaviors as it relates to COVID, some of which came from our former president ... the idea of injecting Lysol and other quackery. I think it's good to remember that that stuff is really the extreme minority of people. Most people who aren't getting the vaccine are either afraid of the health risks; they can't get time off from work, they're afraid they'll get fired; they think we're going to hit herd immunity, so why should they take the risk?; they've been misled by headlines or stories on Fox News or other right wing publications; or, they've just been confused by a lot of the headlines and mainstream journalism, where we had like three weeks where there were these shocks, that we were having breakthrough cases of COVID when people had the vaccine, but that's how vaccines work. You get a breakthrough case. You just don't get hospitalized. You just don't die. And if you read the articles, yeah, that said that in the third paragraph, but it didn't say it in the headline.
I think we have to remember, every time we see the craziness of this sort of ivermectin types. Like you said, to understand where did this idea come from? Why would somebody believe it? And equally important, to remember attacking that 1% of people is not going to help move the 20 or 30% of people we have to move to getting the vaccine.
: Well said. Well, that was the Atlantic, which you can read at TheAtlantic.com
Dave, let's move on to your next follow. I asked you for someone you don't know, but want to be your friend. And you said Billy Corben, who's on Twitter
So Billy is a documentary filmmaker. He's done several episodes of 30 for 30, and he's done a Netflix series called Cocaine Cowboys. He's also the director of Screwball, which sounds fascinating to me. It's a documentary about the MLB doping scandal. So talk about what do you like about Billy and his work, and why do you want to be friends with him?
: Sure. Well, he actually is a friend of a friend.
: You have a chance.
: Yeah, this is going to happen. Billy, if you're listening, dude, we got to hang out, but I first discovered him through a friend of mine. So I started following him and then realized that he was, in addition to being pretty entertaining on Twitter, a really good documentarian.
And the first one that I watched of his, you mentioned 30 for 30, was "The U." And that was like, I think the first two-part 30 for 30, that was like four hours on the University of Miami's football team. And it was just incredibly entertaining and remarkably interesting. You don't actually have to be a football fan ... Actually for good documentaries, you really don't have to be interested in the topic at all, I find, if the people do a good job.
So I got into him first because of that. And then he's also done a series called Cocaine Cowboys, where he has covered the drug war. He covered somebody that's known as the godmother of the drug cartels and his most recent one covered these two guys who were put on trial in Miami. And they were like moderate size, but highly popular drug dealers. And their case was just totally absurd. And every twist and every turn in their case was unthinkable. So it was a multi-part series. That's out now. And it's called Cocaine Cowboys: The Kings of Miami
And every episode you sorta think, like, how can we do multiple episodes on just these two minor, relatively minor figures in the drug war, especially since there's been a thousand documentaries on the drug war. And every episode at the end, it ends with a twist where you just can't believe it. And you can't wait to see the craziness that happens next.
And the reason I really like following Billy though, on Twitter, as much as I love his documentaries ... and they're all really good. You mentioned Screwball, which is a great, fun, and somewhat strange documentary about steroids in baseball, because he uses a lot of puppets to do the talking.
: Oh my gosh.
: Sort of as a satire of the fact that not too many people would go on record, but many of these things have something to do with either Miami or Florida. And I think it's a given at this point that as weird as the internet is and weird as a news cycle is, the most weird, always, always is Florida.
And he basically uses his Twitter stream to share incredibly bizarre videos or happenings from Florida, or cases of corruption, and all of them sort of serve as metaphors for our broader nuttiness. So even if you don't care about Florida, you can recognize the Americanisms in all of it.
And then each one ends with a hashtag #BecauseMiami or #BecauseFlorida, and I just find it incredibly enjoyable and incredibly consistent. I love simple things and he just, that part of his online brand is just so simple and so effective and it's a never-ending stream of unbelievable content. So yeah, I highly recommend following him for that alone.
: Yeah, and in his Twitter bio, he describes himself as Florida man. Do you want to explain the Florida Man meme? This is certainly something, for any other voracious news readers, they've probably come across this before.
: There's just so many strange stories out of Florida that there has become this sort of Florida Man meme, where the weirdest thing is always a headline that starts with "Florida Man [does something]" or "Florida Woman [does something]." And so he's taken on that moniker for himself, even though he's pretty far from Florida Man, but yeah, his most recent one that he shared was a guy that people may have seen. It went a bit viral on the internet. A guy who, white guy who, he was probably inebriated, but he was asked to put on a mask at Miami's airport and he went completely nuts.
And somebody filmed him swinging turnstiles and threatening and pushing people at the airport. It probably went on for about 15 minutes. Or not 15 minutes, that's an exaggeration, but it seemed like it, it went on for about three or four minutes for sure. And people that were filming it were saying like, where are the police, what's happening?
And so, in a way it was, yes, another Florida Man story that was an opportunity for Billy Corben to say #BecauseMiami, but there was this broader message that was so obvious, that after a year of Black Lives Matter, to see a white guy going crazy in the airport
and pushing people, pushing security, going nuts, and then eventually he was taken for some mental health counseling compared to what would have happened if that was a Black passenger is not lost on anybody.
Then Billy follows up and sees that, even though the stories said he was arrested, he actually looked into the files, or not the files, but the records for the Miami Police Department. And there was no evidence that he had been arrested. So it sort of had all the pieces: The crazy Florida Man, the cultural connection to all of America, and the wanton corruption that Miami and Florida are so famous for. But that is seeping into the rest of America also.
: Yeah, I think I first saw that video from all the various Middle Eastern and Indian people who I follow, and South Asian people who I follow on Twitter, because a lot of them were saying, just being brown in America, you know, post 9/11 for the past 20 years, the idea of stepping anywhere remotely close to this, this far out of line, it's just unfathomable, you know, that you could "get away" with that. I mean, hopefully he is getting help. Hopefully, you know, he's getting whatever sort of help he needs, but it's just like completely two different worlds of just how you get treated.
: For sure.
: So you mentioned that Billy is a friend of a friend, so there is a chance that you two will get together at some point. So if you were friends, let's set up the first date here. What do you want to do with him? Or what do you want to talk about with him?
: Well, I'm sure if did talk at first, he would say, hey, can you promote my documentary in your newsletter? And I would say, hey, can you tweet about my book to your following? I find that old school internet types, that's the first thing, but I really would love to learn more about the documentary process.
I've been investing in internet companies for about 30 years, but in the last year, I've started to also dabble in some documentaries. And that's probably my favorite art form, I would say. I love documentaries. I love TV in general, but I really do love documentaries. So I just love to ask him about that, how it works, how he comes up with ideas, how he sets it up, how somebody can get involved with it.
And I'd also just love to get any stories about the drug war, because even though I cover all news, I would say at the intersection of America's war on drugs and the opiate crisis is sort of the sweet spot of my area of interest, because it's ... I feel, especially the opioid crisis, is sort of the everything America story. So I'd probably want to talk to him about that stuff and learn more about it.
: That was Billy Corben, who's on Twitter
at Billy Corben. We're going to take a quick break now, but we'll be back in a minute with Dave Pell from NextDraft.
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Welcome back to Follow Friday! Dave Pell, I asked you to tell me about someone who inspires you, and you said José Andrés, who is on Twitter
at @ChefJoseAndres [and YouTube @JoseAndres
]. I've read plenty about him over the past couple of years, but for people who might not know: Who is he and what makes him inspiring?
: In a lot of ways, I feel like he represents so many people who have done really good things that are related to these horrible news stories we've experienced over the last year or two, between COVID and the economic divide and natural disasters. It all seems so overwhelming sometimes. And then we're further overwhelmed by the fact that it seems like most people who are getting media time are just saying things that are either hateful, ridiculous, or just piss us off, instead of make us feel inspired.
And I felt, especially during 2020, there was this moment when COVID first hit. We were so ripe as a culture to be led, and to be brought together. You know, when I was a kid, I grew up in the Bay Area, and we had a few droughts — nothing like what we have now — but when we'd have a drought, the mayor and the principals would all get together and we'd have all these rules about not using water.
And we'd compete with each other, and it was like a thing that we would work together on. And I felt none of that during COVID, which was such a much bigger threat and a much bigger challenge. And if there ever was a moment when people [should] put politics aside, it's like human v. virus is that moment.
And yet we were all pretty let down by the moment. So José Andrés sort of fulfills that for me, he goes to where the trouble is. If you want to follow the news, you can just follow José Andrés. The news industry tends to focus on one story at a time and whatever's the most controversial. So as we're talking, the big story that's being covered is the pullout from Afghanistan.
But if you follow José Andrés over the last week, he had a tweet recently that said, "Goodnight, everybody. I'm leaving Haiti for now to go meet the World Central Kitchen team in New Orleans." So he shows that the news, really the biggest news affecting the most people, where he was needed the most, was the weather disasters and other natural disasters in Haiti and in Louisiana.
Who he is, it's interesting that Haiti was the place that he was tweeting from, because that's where he first started out. He was, as you mentioned, a celebrity chef, or is a celebrity chef and during a disaster in Haiti, in 2010, he started this thing called the World Central Kitchen, where he went there with a pretty small group of people and started feeding people who needed help.
Now a decade and a year later, he finds himself back there for another natural disaster. Poor Haiti has a lot of them. But wherever there is trouble, he goes. I mean, it's really inspiring to follow his Twitter because of that. And he has built this incredible team that does this around the world. And it's not just him.
It's actually, he represents people doing good things, but even more specifically, he represents chefs and celebrity chefs that have some throw with the public, doing incredible things for people when they need it the most.
So like a friend of mine, Tyler Florence, who's a big chef on the food network, anytime there's a fire, if there's a puff of smoke in Napa or Sonoma, or the CalDor fires we're having now, near Tahoe, you know, he is there. And he takes his family and they're feeding people and the energy these people have is just so inspiring. So if I'm going through a thousand tweets and they're all just people yelling at each other and trying to score political points after a terrible news story, it's always just inspiring to see José taking a selfie of himself, leaving one earthquake scene to go to a flood scene and giving people the thing they need most, you know? It's like the very base of Maslow's hierarchy. Right? You need some food and yeah, I just find him endlessly inspiring.
: And we should say that the various places he's been over the past decade, it's not just him making meals. Like he's leading this group, World Central Kitchen ... when I first kind of became aware of him was when he went to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria hit in 2017. And I think, if I have the number right, he had 19,000 volunteers with him on that trip. So he's certainly the leader and the figurehead of this much larger relief effort that's going on. They made millions of meals for people. It really is one of the most inspiring things, I agree with you on this one, for sure.
When something, when a natural disaster hits, it seems like his instinct is to just go and help, however he can, which that's what makes him so admirable. But I'm wondering, you know, as someone working in media, someone with a big platform yourself, how do you think about your responsibility or what your first step is when something happens that needs attention, that needs people to kind of focus on it? Like, what is your thought process there?
: Yeah. I mean, historically, my first thought process really is to pull back and try to give people the most accurate information about that story. I see that as my key role, you know, 'cause I'm a couch hero. I'm not really out there doing it. And that's probably why I'm so impressed with people who are, but...
I think on a broader level, especially during the pandemic year ... Before the pandemic, I always had a sponsor in my newsletter and made a pretty decent amount of money off of that. But during the pandemic, I decided I really wanted to use my newsletter to support either nonprofits or different efforts that were going on, to help people.
In some cases, it actually was getting people to support causes related to World Central Kitchen. There were actually hundreds of these that emerged throughout the country. One sort of angle in particular I thought made a ton of sense was having the government or the state pay restaurants to prepare foods for frontline workers and first responders during the early part of the pandemic.
The government, I really felt, should have done this. I emailed my governor several times and some of his people, he put me in touch with ... I wrote about it. I talked to people about it and a few people that I know actually started to do something like that, but unfortunately it wasn't government-funded.
I really think it should have been. It was a big missed opportunity. I think it made perfect sense. It's so rare that you have a win-win and this was a win-win-win. The restaurants win, the people who work at the restaurants win, the frontline workers win. And we as consumers win, because the restaurants that we needed to order out from, or whatever, would stay in business.
So a lot of people set these programs up and a couple of them were friends of mine. So I would try to promote those a lot in NextDraft. And we were able to raise quite a bit of money. Another friend of mine started a program, which was the Frontline Counseling Project, here in San Francisco, where they got about 500 therapists to provide free services for frontline workers, because they could see very early on that there was going to be a lot of trauma. I can't imagine how much worse it is now that we're like almost two years into this nightmare. But this was early on. And so they treated thousands of hours worth.
So that kind of stuff, when I either know the person or trust the source and I can put the NextDraft readership behind supporting that I think is really valuable, because everybody, when they see a hurricane hit Louisiana or they see a disaster hit Haiti, or they see this incredibly sad and horrifying scene play out in Afghanistan, wants to think, "What do I do?"
But you go on the web and there's like a thousand people asking for your money, a thousand politicians emailing you for five bucks. And it's like, well, "I don't know which to give to. I don't know what to trust." Every day, there's a story about some fake organization. So I think that's one thing that as a newsletter writer and you know, you as a podcaster, as we develop sort of a trusted relationship with our audiences, that if we can vet those things and give people an outlet for that sort of behavior, that makes them feel good and supports a cause, it's pretty valuable.
So I'm no José Andrés, but hopefully I've given him a few bucks through NextDraft over the years.
: Every little bit counts. Yeah. And so, folks listening to this, if you want to donate to World Central Kitchen, it's WCK.org
. That was José Andrés, who's on Twitter
@ChefJoseAndres [and YouTube
We have time for one more follow today. I asked you for someone you've followed forever, and you said John Gruber, the founder of DaringFireball.net
. He's also on Twitter at @Gruber
, and he hosts the podcasts The Talk Show
. So for people who don't know John's work, explain who he is and what he writes about on Daring Fireball.
: Sure. He's been blogging forever, like I have. I was a blogger in the early days, and so was he. Incredibly popular blogger, drives an unbelievable amount of traffic when he links to you. Back in the day, before we all were hosted by Amazon Web Services, and had our own servers, people's servers would regularly go down when John would link to a story on their site or on their blog.
And that was called "getting Fireballed," it even had a name. His core area that he covers is definitely Apple and everything iPhone, Mac, iPad. [He] has a ton of contacts in Apple and a ton of great insights about Apple. And I am an incredible Apple fanboy, I've been ... back when you said somebody was a member of the 1% and it meant that meant that they used a Mac, I've been using it since then.
So as a young man, I tried endlessly to convince all of my friends to switch to Mac and tried to explain to them why it was better. And we had to go to these obscure stores to deal with incredibly irritable dudes who would make you feel bad for asking a question about a SCSI port, but now of course, Apple is everywhere and everything, so it might be hard to explain that feeling of allegiance today that I had back then, but it has lasted.
So I've been following him ever since then. And he just has ... I mean, he's a fanboy too, so he's certainly fair, he loves Apple, but he just never hesitates to sort of shoot from the hip.
That's the thing I really like the most about him. I'd say over time, I've developed more of that, but that's probably been, a lot of times, my biggest hesitation. I do hate getting hate mail or somebody saying that joke went too far or whatever.
: So you kind of reel yourself back. You kind of restrain yourself a little bit.
: Or I worry about it, or if somebody criticizes it, then it gets me irritated, even if I think I'm right. But he really is pretty fearless. And the other thing that I really like about him and what he's done is that I really found it off-putting during 2020, when the s**t was just hitting the fan in so many ways, and people would just stick to their ordinary beat and pretend none of that was happening.
And that just seemed so crazy to me. And he didn't do that. So he covered the election. He lives in Pennsylvania and he said, "Oh, I have some extra insights into the vote count in Pennsylvania." And he covered that with the same kind of analytical eye that he covers Apple news.
He covers the vaccine rollout and politicians that are working against the best health interest of their constituents. And I really felt that was important. I don't think it's important forever. I don't think everything needs to be political forever, but in the COVID era, and the attack on democracy era, everything really was political.
And to pretend that it wasn't, I think it was a disservice to readers. So I really liked that he does that, too. I really, even though I do a newsletter, I really think of my newsletter as most akin to a talk radio show. So the first time you read it, yeah, you'll see the news and stuff, but you might not really get into the groove of it ...
: Your tone.
: Yeah. The tone, the angle, the references. But if you stick with it about a week ... there's a sports broadcaster named Jim Rome, who, anytime he enters a new market, he always says, "Just give me one week. Don't judge me today. You might hate it, but just give it a week. So you know what we're talking about and the vibe of the group here."
And I think John has done a great job of that at Daring Fireball. There's just a tone and some asides ... if somebody says something that is a crazy statement, especially about Apple, and then it's proven to be wildly false, even many years later, he'll call it "claim chowder." It's just little subtle things that he does and he cares about design. Also, I just feel good seeing somebody else as old as me is still doing this garbage.
: Yeah. I mean, for a time, blogging was the hottest thing. It was like the thing that everyone associated with, "You're making stuff for the internet. You're a blogger." And he has held on and refused to cede that ground, even as people flee to other platforms. I mean, he's doing two podcasts now. He's not only doing the blog, but...
: But he does like to stick to doing it his way. And I think that's good. I mean, he's an indie who makes a ton of money every year off ads on his blog alone. And so I think that's inspiring, you know, if somebody puts in the work and sticks to their guns and sticks to their strategy, it could be successful.
And he was doing it at a time where ... this was before Patreon and Substack. The idea of somebody making money off their blog was pretty unusual when he started making plenty of money off of it. So, yeah, it's cool to see, but like I said, it's mostly just that he's old. That's awesome for me. So I don't have to be the only one with gray hair on this internet.
: Yeah. Do you remember how you first ... you mentioned sort of the pre-Amazon Web Services days of blogging, you know, how different it was just to even be linked to by a larger blog. Do you remember how you specifically first started reading his blog? Like were you just like refreshing his home page every day, seeing what was new? How did you follow people like John?
: I've always really just followed people on the web, except for using a Twitter client or whatever. I never really got into RSS, even though it's gone now, basically, or other tools. I just like opening tabs, mostly because I read mostly news sites and I want the managing editors of each publication to do some work for me and show me what they think is most important.
And I'm used to looking at different spots on pages. And I also think the blog style is still underrated as one of the greatest UI breakthroughs on the internet, where you go to a site and the most recent thing is up top. It sounds simple now, but it wasn't simple when blogs started. You would go to a news site and you'd have to scroll all over the place to see what was new.
And then the blog technology sort of said, no, you come here regularly, so just read until you get to the part you already read. And it was pretty cool. So I just went to him that way because I was such an Apple fan. But back in the day when we were both starting out, we were both on the same gray computer box and the box was called Comox.
He would know what it is and many other people of our generation would know, it was just one specific box, at one specific hosting provider, regular computer that you would see on your desk in those days. And on that box was, I think, EvHead — Evan Williams who did Twitter and Medium — were on there, and Blogger. John was on there. I was on there and a little company called WordPress was also hosted on there. So it was quiete a little sort of, "Where are they now?" VH1 thing or whatever.
So it was cool, but that's how far back it goes. So back then, if he took somebody down, he would take us all down.
: Yeah. I was reading an old interview
with you from, I think, about 10 years ago or so, where the reporter's asking, how do you make NextDraft? And you say that you use the reading list feature in Safari, and the writer is just like, "What? No one uses Safari!", but you know what, whatever works.
: Yeah, no, I do everything totally old school. I write NextDraft in this old program called BBEdit, which is an HTML coding program that's probably been around since the day after Marc Andreessen invented the browser, if not earlier. So I'm probably the last guy to do that, too. And I also do all my codes, whatever they were 20 years ago. And then I have a WordPress installation where my engineer has it strip out all of my old codes and put in the current ones. So yeah, I'm pretty old-school.
: Well, that was John Gruber, whose work you can find at daringfireball.net
. Dave Pell, thank you for sharing your follows with us today. Before we go, let's make sure our listeners know how to find you online. Where do you want them to follow you?
: They can find me on Twitter at @DavePell
and they can find me for my daily newsletter at nextdraft.com
. It's also a iOS app, so you can download it from the App Store if you want. And these days, most importantly, they can pre-order my book, Please Scream Inside Your Heart. That's available pretty much everywhere and you can just go to pleasescream.com
and we made a pretty cool landing page. So it's worth checking that out, if nothing else.
: Oh, yeah. The title of the book, that's from ... correct me if I'm wrong, it was like a Japanese roller coaster or something like that?
: Right. There was a Japanese roller coaster at an amusement park. It had a roller coaster called the Fujiyama roller coaster that was, at the time it was built, one of the scariest roller coasters in the world. And during the sort of darkest days of the pandemic, back in July of 2020, Tokyo officials decided they would allow people to go back to amusement parks as long as they wore masks.
And the people at the amusement park that ran it found that everybody was wearing the masks, unlike in America, and following the rules. But when they would go on this one roller coaster, they would go crazy and be screaming. And so there was like sort of a health risk associated with that. And so they said, you can come to the amusement park, you can wear your mask, but you can't scream. And everybody sort of made fun of that, especially in Japanese social media.
Like, how can you possibly go on this roller coaster and not scream? So the executives at the amusement park sent two of their key executives on the roller coaster
, wearing a shirt and tie, mask, and having perfectly coiffed hair. And they had a camera on them as they did the entire roller coaster without really moving a muscle, except to adjust their hair a couple of times, but no screaming.
And at the end of that video, a message came up that said, "Please scream inside your heart." And that sort of became a pretty big meme in a year that was filled with them. And I just felt, it sort of captured the craziness of 2020, and also the feeling like we had so much to scream about, but it was almost too much to handle.
So this book sort of says, we can relax and sort of let it out at this point.
: And give the website one more time. Where can people pre-order that?
: They can pre-order it, any online bookstore, or they can go to pleasescream.com
: Well, follow me on Twitter at @HeyHeyESJ
, and this show on Twitter
And now, as I mentioned earlier, you can find clips from the podcast on YouTube
. Click the link in the show notes or search for "Follow Friday podcast" on YouTube. Our theme music was written by me and performance 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!