With former Google designer Tristan Harris, who explains how far Silicon Valley will go to capture and control your eyeballs. And Snapchat artist CyreneQ, who makes her living drawing on her phone all day. For real.


For the next several weeks you'll hear the “Best of” Note to Self in your podcast feed. Our favorite episodes. Manoush will be working on some other projects, but Note to Self will be back before you know it with some changes and surprises. 

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00:00:04listener supported W. NYC studios Hey it's me news the host of note to self this show that looks at how technology is changing our everyday lives watch this space for new episodes coming soon but right now you are about to hear one of our most favorite episodes ever
00:00:23if you're hearing it for the first time enjoy if you've heard it before it might sound different with all the recent headlines about privacy data and democracy there's a lot shifting right now meanwhile if you want to discuss further would just be in touch you can always reach
00:00:41me at minuti Z. M. A. N. O. U. S. H. Z. on Twitter or at a new seat that cop for now thanks for listening under these on Snapchat what happens when a tech company designs an app that makes absolutely no sense to half the population and triggers
00:01:06intense some might say compulsive behaviors in the other half I'll tell you what happens that company grows to be worth over twenty billion dollars note to self the tech show about being human I'm Alicia Moreau de this week Snapchat and technologies that hijacked our minds how they work
00:01:32and how they're changing the way that we talk to each other sometimes for good sometimes for bad sometimes for a very strange let's start this episode with how Snapchat actually works for those of you who are completely clueless and don't worry you are not alone I see it
00:01:55again you may hold down okay plan so you only this is producer Meghan to name a millennial teaching me and senior producer cat Erin Jenna x.'ers what Snapchat actually does do you %HESITATION what if I want to go back and see things that she can't hold us twenty
00:02:13four hours on the story so I have to keep checking and keep checking and keep checking back can I just never be bothered to figure out Snapchat thirty percent of people in the U. S. age eighteen to thirty four on the other hand do use the app many
00:02:29of them like it because it's not about collecting followers are lakes are favorites it's more about talking one to one Meghan's nineteen year old brother for example only Texas friends through Snapchat and there's no way to say this without sounding ridiculously old he does something called streaks with
00:02:48them he was like I know someone with like five hundred which means they've gone five Hundred Days like for five hundred days have stopped each other back and that's the game of that and they get like anxious when they know they ruin the street because if you miss
00:03:03one day and then it all goes away don't break the streak show that your friendship is worth it so people who use Snapchat check it on average more than eighteen times a day and this is why when the company went public it was worth more than CVS or
00:03:20target or delta airlines in the and no by instilling that old fear the fear of missing out for awhile so I have to keep checking and keep checking and keep checking back there is this is about like the ways that the habit formation is built into the design
00:03:45of the tool and that if you miss it you've missed it for ever it's all it's like follow it's like a phone %HESITATION by design yes but that they're not the first to do formal by design everybody's done it they just might be the best they may have
00:04:00to maximize the phone or by design and that may be why the valuation is yeah because that fear of missing out is like a really human vulnerability particularly after like thirteen human vulnerabilities and triggering behavior our guide to how tech companies do this by design is Tristan Heris
00:04:27%HESITATION some interest on and %HESITATION you speed design at the cystic Google and now I help lead a social movement call time well spent Tristan N. Snapchat's founder Evan Spiegel both went to Stanford University but after Tristan got his computer science degree he went on to get his
00:04:43masters at the universities persuasive technology lab it's a lab instead for the teachers basically engineering students how to find the back doors and tweaks and by season people's minds and use it to create more engaging like tech products actually my partner in my class was one of the
00:05:01founders of Instagram so this we learned so you need to know is there a motivation that moment to learn about something how hard or easy is the ability for them to do it and then is there a trigger to remind them to do it like many of his
00:05:17classmates Tristan dropped out of Stanford to launch a start up and it actually turned into a successful one and just Winterstein should have been feeling on top of the world he started having doubts he started feeling conflicted that he was using his technological powers to control readers then
00:05:38Google offered to buy Tristan's company they call it like in Acworth higher the choir really was to hire tryst on and he took the job joining the G. email team his doubts about designing technology that sucked people into the web persisted I was actually starting to get especially
00:05:59working on email I like a little bit disenchanted because I was questioning when his email actually making life better %HESITATION just because especially cool you're filled with calendar invites an email and just constantly flooded so I kind of got the early version of this distraction problem that we
00:06:16are facing so Tristan came up with the presentation that laid out his concerns and he shared the document with just five of his fellow googlers it basically said never before in history have fifty designers working at three companies apple Google and Facebook shape how a billion people think
00:06:34everyday and we have this enormous responsibility to be careful about how we're steering people's attention in their choices the presentation spread throughout the company five people that ten people that a hundred to three hundred and when I went to work on the bus the next morning everyone had
00:06:52it open their laptops to strong got called in to some meetings at the top not to be fired but to be offered to try out a new role at Google I switched my own internal title to design ethicist to think about you know what does it mean to
00:07:08ethically steer so many people's attention and choices in the way that they basically see reality do you feel like you chief much while you were in that role I choose a lot in terms of what I learned I wasn't able to get a lot of changes through mostly
00:07:21because of inertia a lot of people think oh it's evil corporations and they just wanna maximize how much money they make and it's really not about that it's just this kind of a nurse that everybody has a lot of things to do and there's you know the next
00:07:31version of android or chrome is already planned and there's a million other things that are more important things that might make this money things that might keep people to use it more and that just comes first with no real change in sight Google Tristan quit and when we
00:07:50come back what he went on to do and how it relates to Snapchat please continue to give notice self your full attention will be right we're back I mean you some roadie this is note to self and we're talking about how our tech can be designed to make
00:08:18us act in wonderful and neurotic please before we go back to Tucson one introduce you to someone who thinks that Snapchat is amazing my name is Irene camco on social media I'm now in a society here Cyrene is a Snapchat artist yes that's the thing when you open
00:08:36staff that you see a camera first it encourages you to create first and it also unlike other social media where if you post something and you don't get the lights people kind of get sad about that but on Snapchat only you can see the light and so there's
00:08:53less social pressure to post on it Serena started out on Snapchat by drawing celebrities into herself fees for fun her drawings got attention from actual celebrities which then got her fans which then got her kind of Snapchat famous she started getting hired by brands to create snap ad
00:09:12campaigns drawing on Snapchat on her phone is her full time job I work with AMC and coca Cola I took my followers on the theaters did some drawings that some games and at the end I was like join my popcorn and coke party draw some popcorn in drop
00:09:33coke on your hands and so everybody was drying the coke logo like they were holding it just to join the popcorn and coke party yeah that kind of interaction with fans is exactly why Snapchat is worth so much money and it's exactly what worries tryst on Harris the
00:09:55last time Tristan was on this podcast we dug deep into what's called the attention economy this idea that we pay for the internet with our time and our eyeballs instead of our money back then Tristan was still a Google but since our interview Tristan has left the company
00:10:11to found a movement calls it time well spent if I'm Facebook crime Netflix rhymes Snapchat I'm exceptionally good at getting your attention I do it all day long I can hold on to it I can get you to come back I have literally a thousand engineers whose job
00:10:28is to get more attention from you I'm very good at this and I don't want you to ever stop if I actually even let go a little bit and turned down how persuasive I am my competitors gonna swoop in and get that attention back so I can't really
00:10:43let go of how much the attention I get from you and the %HESITATION see %HESITATION Netflix recently said our biggest competitor is our Facebook YouTube and sleep I mean you know there's a million places to spend your attention but there's a war going on to get it let's
00:10:57imagine what a cellphone or what a Facebook would look like if it was actually helping us live out the life choices that we want what with that look like please paint a picture for me let's say there's some kind of %HESITATION news article that comes up and let's
00:11:10say the algorithm knows that it's a very controversial article in the current buttons are basically like share comment does the three choices you're given a menu with three choices no worries on that menu Hey do you want to call this person to talk to them about it but
00:11:24we should be figuring out how much would it cost us how much would you be willing to pay for version of Facebook that was entirely built to help you spend your time well that just focused on information that was a reputable sources in quality where does Snapchat lay
00:11:39on the spectrum here in terms of the attention economy is it on the one hand it's kind of good leg messages disappear is it actually one of the better players each company does certain things better and other things worse one of the examples of some I think really
00:11:55bad persuasive techniques which is right from the playbook that I learned at Stanford is snap streaks this basically this feature that shows you next to the contact in your contacts list X. your friend's name the number of days in a row that you sent a message back and
00:12:10forth so like I send you a snap you sent me a snap I send you a snap you sent me is now let's keep the gun let's keep it going totally so you know if you're a teenager you probably have the number a hundred and fifty next to
00:12:21some of your friends so when you see that number there it makes it really hard not to send a message to that person people wake up in the morning a lot of these kids and they got to go through all of their contacts and make sure they send
00:12:34them a message that you could say so what's so bad about this because if I miss an option here I'm saying well if you don't like the feature like you don't have to use our products sure right or %HESITATION what's the big deal it's just a it's just
00:12:46a number people can choose to ignore it it's not up to us to choose they can just choose to not pay attention to it what all of this Mrs is that when Snapchat's doing this their goals are not the same as your goals they didn't invent this feature
00:12:59because it helps kids live the life they want invented this feature because it hoax kids and that's wrong what's going through my mind is %HESITATION research that I've read about habit forming like one of the best ways to start exercising is if you market down on your calendar
00:13:15every day that you exercise and you see a chain and you don't want to break it's a great way to create a healthy habit exactly is so there's places where you can use it where it would be good but you would be choosing where you want to use
00:13:26it so for example do %HESITATION lingo this language learning app they ask you what would be a time well spent streak for you in your life I think they ask you like the number of days in a row where how many days a week you'd like to do
00:13:37it so what you're saying is they would make me stop and be like how much time can I really give to learning Spanish yeah you know what I think three days a week for twenty minutes that would be progress to me right and the most important thing is
00:13:50that they care about your freedom in choosing this I'm persuading you only in the way you want me to persuade you whereas in Snapchat's case they're not asking you to what are the chances that you can call up Evan Spiegel the C. E. O. of Snapchat be like
00:14:06do I want to just talk about this one thing why I'd love to talk I think you know what I find is actually there's no one here in the industry who ever wakes up and has any kind of malicious intention or actually wants to harm anybody I've never
00:14:20met a single person but technology is not neutral you know people say for example %HESITATION kids they're just using this in way worse is what kids do kids do and you know when we were kids we just call each other on the phone all the time but we
00:14:32hung out at the mall and that's all true with different though is that your nineteen seventies telephone on your wall was not being over the air update it every day by tech companies with thousands of engineers it's not just that someone can update your phone to get use
00:14:46it much as possible is that they can wire up this intelligent engine to it through actually finds exactly what pushes your buttons perfect way when you and I were talking about the attention economy a couple years ago I was thinking more about like games like candy crush sort
00:15:02of the addictive elements %HESITATION and all these things but now why do you think we need to talk about news or fake news or real news or whatever why do you think news in the election have to now be part of this conversation because when one news website
00:15:19evolves a strategy called outrage outrage is really good at getting your attention compared to a new site that doesn't involve that strategy so suddenly the web starts to move in sort of drift in this direction towards outrage and then it's no longer just about offering information it's about
00:15:37making sure I get your attention I mean fundamentally the problem that with this this is all gonna come down to is advertising specifically in the form of attention advertising it's like I've got manages eyeball and I'm gonna hold an auction who once managed as I've all right now
00:15:57and if one advertisers willing to pay more but they're going to throw some fake news in front of me and some other advertisers gonna pay less but they're gonna just offer some regular at Facebook's algorithm is gonna put the fake news in front of you so you're technologist
00:16:14your designer your have a computer science degree what are you suggesting well I think this has to be a threat of future regulation or something like that worse the moral imperative that at some point you just realize this just isn't the world we want to live in you
00:16:29can't open the door to the internet without getting for you know sucked into the internet me over the internet is kind of crazy this is kind of fear you know when you turn off your phone and you walk around outside like mostly there is kinda Crispin fashion you
00:16:43can take a deep breath and you can walk down the street and that's still feels kind of the same we're gonna put together a list of apps that we think jibe with Tristan and our values here at the show we'll put it on our website note to self
00:17:02radio dot work %HESITATION note to self team is Jan plant cat Aaron Meghan %HESITATION name and Joe poured many thanks to Keegan Xena for his help to note to self is a production of W. NYC studios I menu some ROD thank you so much for listening okay %HESITATION
00:17:33I guess and doing it in a second figure out Snapchat on my phone this whole thing makes it feel like Andy Rooney I have a lot of gadgets here in my office I don't really like gadgets I don't even like the word gadget

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