🎙 The Most Thorough Case Against Crypto I’ve Heard

The best podcast episode I listened to today was the April 5th episode of The Ezra Klein Show:

Dan Olson is the creator of a two-hour-YouTube video, “Line Goes Up,” that has now been viewed nearly seven million times. “Line Goes Up” is the single most comprehensive critique of crypto that I’ve ever heard. And that’s because Olson isn’t just focused on cryptocurrencies as a technology or an asset class, but on the crypto universe as a distinct culture underpinned by a powerful ideology. It’s easy to think about the lingo, the acronyms and the myths associated with the crypto world as incidental to the value of cryptocurrencies and NFTs as assets. But for Olson, the culture and the currency are inextricably linked. And once you’ve made that connection, suddenly a lot of the problems, warning signs and potential dangers of crypto become visible in a new way.

The longer I look at crypto the more of a scam it seems to be. Dan Olson brings almost every argument I have read—or made myself—against crypto to the table, and pushes some of them further than I have thought.

One of Olson’s most interesting insights is that the pseudo-anonymity that crypto wallets will, counter-intuitively, reduce your financial price. This is because crypto wallets are pseudonymous1 rather than anonymous, and a blockchain, which stores transaction history for crypto wallets, is open. Therefore, if you know someone’s crypto wallet ID—because you paid them back for something with crypto—you could use that ID to look up all their prior transactions on the blockchain. You could get a good idea how much money they have or spend, and get a good idea about where they spend it, too.

I am concerned that governments eventually will instate their own cryptocurrencies, perhaps for nefarious purposes but more likely for stupid ones, and we will all be stuck using them (ahem, ride that rocket-ship to the moon2) despite all their downsides.

  1. Parties in transactions are identified by codes or hashes rather than by name. ↩︎

  2. This is crypto-slang, which all of us who browse Reddit or occasionally watch TV commercials probably know by now. ↩︎

🎙 Draft of the Ages

The best podcast episode I listened to today was the 400th episode of Upgrade:

It’s episode 400! We evaluate the forward-looking predictions we made back in episode 300, and then draft stories we’ll be talking about over the next hundred episodes! Also, an Apple TV+ movie won Best Picture and we round up an awful lot of Apple rumors.

Upgrade is one of my favorite tech podcasts. Hosts Make Hurley and Jason Snell have a great rapport, and mostly talk about Apple and streaming TV services, which are beats that I enjoy learning and speculating about. Like most podcasts that track Apple, they they make predictions about product announcements before they happen. Unlike most other podcasts, they make the predictions fun by presenting them in the form of fantasy-sports-style drafts. It is a great tech podcast. I cannot believe I have listened to 400 of them already!

🎙 Tim’s Back! On Substack!

The best podcast episode I listened to today was the unexpected return of an old favorite: Tim Goodman’s TV Talk Machine. The show ended in 2020. I never unsubscribed, and was surprised this week to find new episodes waiting for me. I would not have noticed them if there hadn’t been a redesign of Overcast, my podcast player, for me to look at this week.

It’s been 612 pandemic-fueled days. But we’ve taken the tarp off the TV Talk Machine, replaced a few parts, and are ready to kick it into gear.

Tim spent the last two years writing TV scripts! He’s going to keep doing that, and write a book, and also has launched a newsletter on Substack so he can write about television again. And… did we mention the TV Talk Machine is back, too? It’s true!

In this episode Tim explains where he’s been, where he’s going, and the origin of his new project, which launches today! Also Jason raves about “Station Eleven” and believe it or not, there’s a letter from a listener!

Tim Goodman was a TV critic who had clearly burned out by early 2020. He and co-host Jason Snell ended the podcast shortly after Goodman quit his TV critic job and started a secret (at the time) TV development deal. What I learned from this podcast back then is that it must be exhausting to be a TV critic, because it is impossible to keep up with all the TV shows and TV episodes coming out all the time, and because you have to watch shows you don’t even like sometimes in order to write about them or to be culturally current. In general, I figured that he had watched too much TV and got sick of it. This episode confirmed that I was right.

In the past I learned about a bunch of great TV shows from this podcast. That isn’t why it was fun to listen to, though. The subject matter is usually very light, and Goodman and Snell chat like old friends.

🎙 How WordPress and Tumblr are keeping the internet weird, with Automattic CEO Matt Mullenweg

The best podcast episode I listened to today is this interview of Matt Mullenweg on Decoder with Nilay Patel:

Matt Mullenweg is the CEO of Automattic, the company that owns WordPress.com, which he co-founded, and Tumblr, the irrepressible social network it acquired from the wreckage of AOL, Yahoo, and Verizon. Matt’s point of view is that the world is better off when the web is open and fun, and Automattic builds and acquires products that help that goal along.

Mullenweg has a unique point of view for a tech founder and CEO. Patel is a smart and incisive interviewer who really seems to understand both tech and business.

I learned two interesting things:

  1. Mullenweg thinks that WordPress could power 85% of the web within the next ten years.
  2. Taylor Swift has a Tumblr.

🎙 I am a sucker for an Upgrade draft episode: The WWDC keynote Draft 2018

🎙 I missed Om Malik’s spot-on take on Facebook from February, before the Cambridge Analytics fiasco. It’s worth a listen if you’re still interested in the Facebook mess.

🎙 “The Menu Bar” is a surprisingly good podcast. Episode 8 shifts drastically from contrarian Apple/tech topics to an interview with director Alex Proyas. Great stuff!

🎙 This week’s episode had me Googling for ‘longest episode of “The Talk Show” with John Gruber ever’.

🎙 It’s Monday morning, so I am listening to “This Week in Tech”.

🎙 I have fallen 15 episodes behind in my “Security Now” listening. I do like the podcast, but listening to it is a little like “eating my vegetables” sometimes. I’m trying to catch up somewhat today.