I’ve been previewing my new podcast in the “members only” section of Medium for the past three weeks. Its goal is to bring listeners from a passing familiarity of a subject to a top-percentile understanding of it in the course of a single episode featuring a deep interview with a relevant expert.
Each episode is accompanied by an article that contextualizes and introduces it. The first of those articles was made available to Medium non-members and members alike. Its companion audiocast surveys the current state of augmented reality, and features a long interview with the CEO of AR pioneer Meta. While the article has been available to anyone, the audio was initially only available to paying Medium members.
I recently recorded an unhurried and wide-ranging interview with Cindy Cohn, who defends your digital privacy and free speech full time — along with that growth-causing, job-forming force we call “innovation.” She does this in her role as Executive Director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. To access it, either:
Type “After On” into your podcast app’s search field, or . . .
Readers and authors deserve a great place to congregate online. Sure, the written word has many homes. But most fit poorly with the cadence of books. Authors write extremely long dispatches — so we’re mostly bad at Twitter. Facebook basically charges us to reach the readers who proactively seek us out and follow us, which is kind of evil (plus, we’re cheapskates). I love Goodreads and recommend it to everyone. But as its name avows, it’s geared more around readers than authors.
As for blogging, it’s more like an alternative to our main gig than a means to support it. Blog daily, and you’ll have no time to write books. Blog quarterly, and nobody — literally, nobody — will keep checking in to see if you have a pulse. Independent and emerging writers have many direct routes to readers (I’m especially enamored with WattPad). But publishers keep most of their output away from those channels. And so authors who work with publishers are still seeking a place to truly showcase our work and gather a following.
Rob Reid argues that perhaps the best answer is “Ideally, no.”
Rob Reid’s career has spanned founding successful Internet companies (he created Real’s Rhapsody service), a stint in venture investing, and a well received non-fiction book (Architects of the Web profiled the first wave of internet entrepreneurs). But it was in fiction where Reid found his groove. Reid’s novels are rife with arch and hilarious observations about the state of the tech industry, but are also painstakingly researched and carefully constructed. His first work of fiction, Year Zero, lampooned the music industry (with a heavy dose of alien-driven satire), but his second, set to debut later this year, is far more ambitious. Titled After On, the story turns on the emergence of machine-native super intelligence (laced with a heavy dose of biotech), in the form of an pervasive social network called Phluttr. I won’t spoil it for you — but at the NewCo Shift Forum earlier this year, Reid outlined some of the deep thinking that went into his latest creation. Reid delivered his thoughts as an Ignite talk — the five minute format created by Brady Forrest, who introduced Reid from the stage. Below is the video and a transcript of Reid’s talk.
Brady Forrest: We’ve had kind of an arc here at Ignite. We began in the past, we talked about the present, and now with our last speaker, we’re going to go look in the future. Please welcome up, Rob Reid.
Rob Reid: If you want to become an expert in something you know nothing about, I suggest you sign up to write a book about it. The prospect of awful reviews will terrify you, and as this guy will tell you, fear is a very powerful motivator. Now the other great thing about writing is that authors get amazing access to experts. I learned this twenty years ago, when I wrote a book about the rise of the internet. Practically everybody who mattered in the industry sat down for interviews with me, because smart people believe in books. They want them to be accurate, and no school could have taught me what I learned from these folks, which inspired me later to start my own company which built the Rhapsody music service, but I only started getting really high quality time and attention from top scientists and technologists when I gave up writing non-fiction and started writing science fiction.