On a recent episode of Too Embarrassed to Ask, Purple CEO Rebecca Harris spoke with Recode’s Kara Swisher and The Verge’s Lauren Goode about why texting and messaging bots may replace mobile news apps.
You can read some of the highlights from Harris’s discussion with Kara and Lauren at that link, or listen to it in the audio player above. Below, we’ve posted a lightly edited complete transcript of their conversation.
Transcript by Maya Goldberg-Safir.
Kara Swisher: Lauren, is that really you? I didn’t even recognize your voice anymore it’s been so long. I've been enjoying my sojourn in Europe and other places here in NYC.
Lauren Goode: It’s really me! And I know that you missed me, I know you're trying to make it sound like you kept yourself busy.
KS: No, I know you're trying to get me to say that I missed you on Twitter, which is very sad and desperate [laughter].
LG: That was really just to drown out the strong sentiments you have of missing me.
KS: I can tell, yeah. But Walt liked it, walt liked it. But I'm actually here, you're in San Francisco, correct?
LG: I'm in San Francisco and you are ... did you say you came from —
KS: New York City.
LG: But you're really hanging out in Williamsburg a lot these days.
KS: I am. In the Burg. I call it the Burg.
LG: You're so hip! What are you doing down there?
KS: I'm just hanging out, seeing things, I was. I'm walking all over New York today, it’s quite warm here and you know I'm just trying to rendezvous with Anne Wojcicki and my boyfriend, Alex Rodriguez. They keep inviting me to a baseball game and I still haven't heard from them, it’s kind of weird.
LG: Really? What baseball game?
KS: It was a Mets game, and he hasn't showed up to any of them, I showed up there.
LG: You know he used to play for the Yankees, right? Not the Mets. I mean, I know sportsball isn't really your thing but they're like the other sportsball team in New York.
KS: See, that’s the problem with New York, they have two sportsball teams, there's too many sportsball teams.
LG: It’s just too confusing.
KS: I do understand the Kevin Durant situation, that he's going to some other team.
LG: Oh! And what is your analysis of that? I would love to hear this.
KS: I don’t care, that’s my analysis of that [laughter] highly paid people!
LG: Are they trading Andrew Bogut, is that a thing, is that an official thing? Rob's nodding his head.
KS: We're not gonna talk about sports, I hate sports — and my favorite topic is not sports, but one of my favorite topics is politics and tech! And politics in general! This season it’s the gift that keeps on giving. Unlike the current political situation, we're trying to keep it civil here on Too Embarrassed to Ask.
LG: Yeah, we are gonna try to keep it civil today.
KS: Yeah, try.
LG: And this is coming from, by the way, the potentially future mayor of San Francisco.
KS: That's exactly right, I've been discussing that with people lately, I'll fill you in when I see you.
LG: Oh, I wanna hear all about this!
KS: I've been meeting with the power brokers.
LG: I wanna hear all about this. Remember me on your Snapchat account when you're mayor.
KS: Yeah, I'm waiting for your donation, your maximum donation. But we'll discuss that later [laughs]. And for this episode —
LG: You better start saying that you miss me if you expect me to give you money.
KS: No, you're gonna give me money anyway! Trump has proved you can abuse the general public and have them send you money! So that's my tactic in this situation.
LG: Well, for this very special episode of Too Embarrassed to Ask which is going to be about politics, we've brought in an expert at the intersection of politics and technology. Our guest is Rebecca Harris, she is the cofounder of a political news service called Purple — except it’s quite possible you maybe haven't heard of Rebecca or the app quote unquote Purple before because she and her team actually deliver the news to you in a way that you maybe might not expect from a news app.
KS: Wait, so Purple is like a mix of blue and red, right?
LG: That's exactly it.
KS: It’s not Yahoo News.
LG: Thanks for joining us today, yeah, exactly, it’s just like Yahoo. It’s funny that's exactly where your mind goes too, like have you been crawling in the vents there lately listening to all their secrets, I need to know.
KS: Anyway, Rebecca, welcome.
Rebecca Harris: Thank you guys so much. I'm glad to be here.
KS: Can you explain Purple — the situation?
RH: Sure, so Purple basically started when I was in college as a blog when I was interning on the Hill.
KS: That's a horrible job, I did that too.
RH: [laughing] Well, it ended up being the best experience ever because it’s kind of shaped everything that's happened since, but I can understand why someone would be jaded by it for sure.
KS: My job was to keep a senator from falling asleep during press interviews, so it really gave me a new perspective on politics.
RH: Oh god!
LG: Which senator?
KS: S. I. Hayakawa from California.
RH: What a name!
KS: Sleeping Sam — that was his nickname, Sleeping Sam [laughter]. And he did, he slept.
RH: That's amazing!
LG: And Rebecca, who did you work for?
RH: I was interning for Senator Kent Conrad, he was a democratic senator from North Dakota.
KS: North Dakota, yeah.
RH: Yeah, really, really interesting guy, very smart and really policy focused rather than political, like people used to make fun of him because he would get, be on the senate floor almost always accompanied by a series of charts and graphs going through ...
KS: The wonk, it’s a wonk -
RH: Exactly. And yeah, it was really, really incredible. He was also a really interesting senator because you know he was re-elected multiple times in a really red state. You know, it’s really rare for a Democrat to kind of like have that legacy. But I actually grew up in Texas, and I went to the University of Connecticut for college and growing up in Texas you know [laughs] it’s not surprising ...
I'm a huge politics nerd, so it’s kind of like Disneyland for me.
KS: No, yeah.
RH: Pretty red, red spot.
KS: What got you started on the Purple thing? So you were wasting your time in Washington, as most people do ...
RH: [laughing] So I was interning and, you know, having a lot of conversations with my fellow intern friends about politics, and I'm a huge politics nerd, so it’s kind of like Disneyland for me. And I just became very overtly frustrated really for the first time, or at least I had been conscious of it for the first time with how uninformed and misinformed my generation is especially about politics. And part of the problem, I sort of saw like two reasons for that: One is that there wasn't really a news outlet at the time that was producing content geared towards millennials or young people that really broke this stuff down in a way that was easy to digest, so you know saying that you know, the senate is having this big debate on the debt ceiling does not help if you're like, well, what the hell even is the debt ceiling? And then the second issue I think or that I saw was that there's a lot of bias in different news outlets and so it’s really hard to know if the information you're getting, you can sort of trust. So I decided, well alright, like, why don’t I try to fix it? Why don’t I try to fix this problem, why can’t it be me? So I started a blog in Senator Conrad's mailroom called Purple Politics, which I gotta give a shoutout to my sister, she's the one that came up with the name. The idea was I would try to pick a subject each day, a topic related to politics, and just break it down as if I was sitting with a friend over a beer just trying to explain something but try to do it in as unbiased a way as possible, so that's kind of how it all started.
KS: Why do you wanna be unbiased? I mean, politics is about being biased, really in a lot of ways.
RH: Right, so I agree, I think that when you start actually getting to the point where you're taking action on things, like you have to have bias in a certain aspect otherwise you're not gonna be compelled to take action. But my goal wasn't necessarily to get people to become activists for certain things, it was to provide a source that at least gave you a baseline to be actually informed on these issues so you felt like you could talk about them and form your own opinion on them. And you know the key issue for me at that time was the Affordable Care Act, it was Obamacare, so that happened to be the summer, it was 2012, that the Supreme Court was issuing their first opinion on Obamacare, so there was a lot of conversation about it and I just remember being so frustrated in those conversations because I would hear people saying things that I knew that I disagreed with and that I felt like I knew were incorrect, but I didn’t feel informed enough about the issue to really back up my argument, and that's a perfect example of an issue that is not easy to learn and understand because it’s very complex and there's all these other components of it. So I wanted to make something like that, like understanding the Affordable Care Act, or a policy like that, much easier, so that you could at least know the information and as much fact as possible to form your own opinion about it.
"What the hell is going on in Syria? I don’t have time to read about this crap."
LG: But you also run a text messaging service, which is why I said earlier, you may be getting these updates, you may have signed up at some point, and you actually never see the word Purple. I just get a text message from you, or a number, every day, and it’s got a little bit of news information in it, and then there's usually one word that's capitalized that's kind of a trigger word, a keyword, and if I punch in that word back to you, then you send me the next news update. Like right now I have one on my phone that says, "I hope you had a good weekend, so the FBI finally completed their investigation into Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server, and concluded that she did not break the law" — and break is the key word there, so if I write break back to you, you keep going, you keep going, and so you have this kind of ongoing dialogue with your audience. Why did you start that and why did you start to go with SMS for this?
RH: That started really in November of 2015, so you know, fast forward like a few years from the blog Purple Politics. My co-founder David and I were working on this same idea of making it easier for people to be informed. And we came back to when both of us were in college basically, and both of us are super nerdy about politics and we realized that like our friends would just come to us and be like, Yo, Rebecca, like what the hell is going on in Syria, can you just break this down for me, I don’t have time to read about this crap. And I would be like, oh my god! Hell yes! Someone wants to talk about Syria? Like, sit down. No one ever wants to talk to me about this stuff!
LG: And this is via text message, this is happening?
RH: No, no, this anecdote was in real life. And so we were thinking back to these, and we had this sort of like eureka moment where we were like wait, like it’s really the conversational aspect of digesting information and being able to learn about something through a conversation that is so powerful. So then we were like, well, how do we use technology to allow the Rebeccas, the nerds of the world basically, to have these kind of conversations with people in a scalable way, and that when we thought about text messaging and both of us had been really interested in a service, I'm sure you guys have heard of, called Magic - which we had both signed up for at the time. Magic is basically like SMS-based and you can ask them literally to do anything. You can be like, hey, I wanna see a movie tonight, can you find me music, movie tickets, whatever you want. And so we figured it would be a really easy way to test it. So actually at first we didn’t even build anything, I just set up a Google voice number on my phone and I got 50 people from a newsletter that I was running and I ...
KS: So better than the newsletter, you had more engagement, is what you're saying?
RH: Absolutely. The first experiment was basically covering a Republican debate via text message, so I sent a message to these 50 people from my number and was like, Oh the Republican debate tonight, message live if you want highlights and fact checks in real time sent to your phone.
KS: You don’t think that’s sort of a twitchy, Twitter-y way to approach a serious issue?
RH: No, absolutely.
KS: This is old lady talking, by the way.
RH: [laughing] No, I mean that's not — that's definitely like an interesting comparison but what we were thinking is, this is much closer to what regular human behavior is with mobile devices every day. The number one thing I do on my phone is I text my friends and my family, and so because it was like me, because it said, hey, this is Rebecca from Purple, there's this human, personal aspect where you feel like you are texting a friend, and so there was this huge amount of engagement, because it’s not passive, it’s like you're actively engaged in this conversation. People could ask questions, they could, you know, send links to things, and it grew from 50 to 100 people like within a week, so that's when we were like, okay, we're onto something. And over the last ...
KS: How many people are using it? This election is really interesting, because it’s really a very twitchy election, I mean it’s — there's literally one presidential candidate campaigning by Twitter using exclamation points at this point.
RH: Right! Yeah, yeah. And actually just as a side note we have this sort of like hidden feature on Purple that we did a while back as a fun experiment, but you can text TRUMP ME to Purple as many times as you want to get a different Trump Twitter quote. [laughter] It’s endless.
LG: What do you type in, you type in Trump Meme?
RH: Trump Me.
KS: Trump me. Nobody wants to be Trumped, nobody wants to be Trumped.
LG: I'm trying it right now during this podcast.
KS: Okay, don’t get trumped, don’t get trumped, Lauren. [laughter]
[talking over each other]
KS: It’s like the clap.
LG: "Cruz said he supported TARP which gave 25 millions at Goldman Sachs, the bank which had loaned him the money he didn’t disclose." Puppet exclamation point! [laughter] It’s from the archives. that one's from the archives of what, three months ago, but yeah, so what? How many people are using Purple now?
RH: So now we have a few thousands, we have over 4,000 users but we also are sort of getting the platform ready for sort of like version two of Purple. We saw a lot of natural user behavior emerge on Purple that was really interesting and very different from what we expected. So for example, a lot of what we started out with were — Lauren, what you just described as like the sort of interactive stories with these keywords. So what I would do every day is think about whatever topic related to the election I wanted to talk about or convey to people and essentially write it out in a series of messages, just like how I would text it to a friend, and then link those with keywords, so you can kind of dig down, as a user, dig down as deep as you want, to learn about something. But then we saw people more and more start sending in recommended reads or asking questions or, you know, sending in their thoughts and opinions on things, and so what we started doing is kind of facilitating these live conversations on Purple, on the platform, around these issues that people clearly wanted to talk about. And that was really interesting, we saw really, really high engagement when we did things like that, so we're sort of merging into this next phase of the platform that's a little bit more focused on sort of like these high quality conversations around this, these topics that people are curious about and wanna discuss.
I download apps all the time that I use once and then I never use again.
LG: So you've said the word conversation, and that's what I think of when I think of the text messages that I've been getting from the service. Quartz now also has a mobile app that treats its push notifications for news very much like a message conversation. You look at the interface, it feels like it’s just one long DM or IM. And it’s a sort of thing where you tap on it, you get more, you can go deep and narrow on a topic or you can get just sort of these surface-level news updates. I mean, this makes me think, maybe it’s not quite a trend yet, but it makes me think, well, what's wrong with standard political news applications that people say, well, we've gotta go into this sort of messaging mode, we have to make everything feel like messaging now. Do you think, are people tired of standard news apps that just sort of display the content in a mobile-friendly format, similar to the way it is on a website?
RH: That's a really important question. I think there are a couple things there. One I think is that sort of app overload in general is an issue where — I'm sure you guys notice this all the time — there's probably five apps on my phone that I use every single day. I download apps all the time that I use once and then I kinda forget about or, you know, I never use again, and it’s really, really difficult to get someone to not only discover an app but to habitually use it, like make it a part of their everyday life. And so I think you get to a problem where every single news outlet has their own app and all of this information is atomized and fragmented in all these different places, and I don’t necessarily wanna have to open up all these different apps every time I wanna consume content. So then I think that's why for most people Facebook and Twitter are sort of their — that's sort of the new homepage, like that's where people get their content from, but then there's this other issue there where there's still this signal to noise problem. There's so much content on these social media platforms, so I think the reason that conversational content or that messaging is good is that it allows you to sort of consolidate all of that stuff into one place where you already live. That's where you already live your life on mobile anyway, or a lot of people do. So you're not having to go to all these different applications or all these different places to consume content. But then I think there also is a simultaneous problem where — and I think this happens every time there's a new hot platform —
KS: Peach! Peach!
It takes people a while to sort of figure out, "What is the purpose of this platform?"
KS: That was for like one Friday last summer. [laughter]
LG: Quite literally.
RH: Totally! And I tried so hard to like Peach and to use it. I just quit.
KS: No, you don’t have to. [laughter]
RH: But I think that a lot of what happens is like when a platform gets really overhyped, especially in the media industry, people think, okay, I have to get onboard this train or I'll be left behind, or I wanna be an early adopter of this, without necessarily thinking about the purpose of the platform. So I use the internet as an example a lot, so when the internet was first created, like the New York Times first website, it was literally just a PDF of the home, of the front page, right? Because they viewed it as, "Okay, this is a new distribution platform." Now fast forward however many years later, actually understanding the platform and the purpose of it, things are very different on NYTimes.com. So I look at a parallel where every time a new platform emerges, it takes people a while to sort of figure out what is the purpose of this platform, how do people naturally use this so that I can use it in a way that makes more sense.
LG: And make content that makes sense. I think about that a lot with video, which is a whole other topic. You know, web video used to be, let's take the stuff that's on TV and cut it up and repackage it and throw it on the internet. And now it's actually how can we create stuff that's meant for this.
KS: So I wanna get to some listener questions, but I'm just curious, has this election been good, just really briefly, this election's probably been pretty great for you because people are super engaged in the traffic accident that's become ...
RH: Oh yeah! [laughter] From an American citizen's standpoint, the election's a little frightening, but from a business perspective it’s freaking great! [laughs]
KS: Spoken like a true network executive! [laughter]
LG: I mean, you said you know beforehand, in 2012 for example, you were sending updates and writing posts for Obamacare. There's always been plenty of fodder, you know, political content for you to write about, but could you have ever predicted that this election cycle would be so, just sort of nuts as it is.
RH: Oh my god. No! But I do have to say, while I am a huge politics nerd and I love political history, I really didn’t, weirdly, get that into politics until I was in college. And I'm 25, so the last couple elections that I really paid attention to I feel were pretty straightforward. I mean Obama, 2008, was obviously an incredible historic election to live through and be focused on, absolutely, but I don’t think there's anything, even in studying political history, that could have, like how I could have, that would have helped me predict how this has turned out. Even at the beginning, you know, my predictions and a lot of other people's predictions, a lot of the political journalists that I respect the most ...
KS: Yeah, don't talk to political journalists. [laughter] They don’t know what they’re talking about!
RH: Everyone underestimated it, yeah!
KS: They made fun of it and they didn’t do the reporting! I was with a group of very top political journalists at a party last summer, kind of outside, and I kept saying, well this Trump thing is really interesting, and they kept saying, NO KARA! You don’t know what you're talking about! And I'm like, well I don’t know, I'm just hearing a lot of stuff, and I'm no expert but maybe you should — and they were like nooo it’s gonna be Jeb Bush! And I was like well he's kinda bored. It was fascinating how they would just, this group was dismissive of things. It can be a big surprise the whole time, which can be good for you — as you said — and bad for the United States. Anyway, every week, our listeners send in their questions, comments and complaints about tech topics. You can do that by tweeting us at #TooEmbarrassed.
LG: Some people who wrote in were pretty charged up. This first one is from @BrennerSpear on Twitter and he asks, why does ignorance of the law work as an excuse for Clintons but not for everyone else?
KS: Oh god, I don’t want to debate these dumbasses.
LG: Rebecca, would you like to take a stab at answering Brenner's question?
RH: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, this was actually the topic ...
LG: Well, first why don’t we tell people who maybe haven't been following, just briefly explain what he might be referring to.
KS: Newsflash! People hate Hillary Clinton [laughter]. For decades now.
RH: So sort of the gist of the issue that Brenner's talking about is, while Hillary was Secretary of State, she had a private email server that she set up that she was, you know, also using for official Secretary of State business. And after the FBI's investigation of that it was found that some of those emails contained classified information and so, there's a statute in the law that says — and this is actually really important and I don’t think a lot of people have dug into this — but the statute actually says that there has to be an intent, or it has to be purposeful that you're trying to disclose classified information, and that is what the actual statute says, and so after the FBI investigated this server and all the emails that were passed through, they recommended that the justice department basically, like, yo, you shouldn't bring charges against Hillary because there's no evidence that there was an intention, or that she was purposefully trying to disclose classified information. And I think that brings up a separate question that we can talk about: Whether that's like a really good mechanism for keeping classified information safe, but that's why they determined that she did not break the law.
KS: Okay, and would you like to respond to this political invective?
RH: Yeah, I mean ...
KS: No, let's not.
RH: It’s hard to respond. Well, let me think, so I think in order to answer the question directly, I would have to agree that the Clintons ignore the law ubiquitously, which I don’t necessarily, which I don’t agree with. I don’t think there's a lot of ...
KS: We'll pull you out of this mudpit, please don’t. This this is the kind of crap that goes on on Twitter, where nobody can actually have a discussion, they actually just like to scream at each other [laughter].
LG: The next question is @VincentMRubino, thanks for sending in a question again Vincent, you've written in before: Why is the government so terrible at adopting new tech and wasn't HRC's private email server more secure than the state department’s?
KS: We’ll leave out the last part because none of us are experts.
LG: Yes but there is something he says ...
KS: Yeah, the first part is super important.
LG: You know, why is the government maybe a little bit slower than maybe people think it might be at adopting certain standards of new technology. What’s your assessment of that, Rebecca?
RH: That's a really, really good question and it’s something that I have been personally focused on and frustrated with for a while, although there's a lot of really, really good people working in tech and government trying to change this assumption and what happens. I think part of it is that — one of things is that the average age of congress is 61 and so just looking at that, you know there's not a lot of people that are in office who are super tech savvy, who have grown up sort of in this internet age. I do think that is one. I don’t think that's necessarily the main problem, but I do think that's one of them. And another thing I think is that bureaucracy in general tends to run a little bit slower in adopting new technology and new ways of doing things. However I will say that at least within the White House, I know Obama has had a really big focus on updating and integrating a lot more tech solutions that the executive branch at least uses, and there's been a big focus on that. So I do think it’s getting better for sure, but I think there's so much more we can do in using the technology we all have at our fingertips to improve government and also enhance democracy, you know, in a really impactful way. There are a lot of awesome people who are working on really innovative solutions to that, which I would love to see more of. What do you guys think?
KS: I think that they — it’s really perplexing that the government invented the internet and they don’t use it very well. You know, I think the Obamacare debacle, I was on one of the news shows and I said Tinder works every day and the Obamacare website couldn't at the time, and they said like, are you comparing it to a dating site? I go, no the dating site works [laughter]. It was fascinating. I think that's unacceptable that the government doesn't allow much more, doesn't do much more innovative stuff around everything. They're trying, obviously, and it’s a big, I think them saying it’s a big hard problem is not really, you know, so's Facebook, so's Google, they're all big hard problems.
LG: I also look at the technology. Technology's such a broad term that you can look at it in a lot of different ways. I think some of the consumer-facing tech that we're referring to, the Obamacare, you know, the ACA website's one of the best examples probably of that. But then there's also, I mean, there's surveillance technology which we may not know everything about. You could even look to investment in space technology. I mean, there's so many different levels for looking at how is the government investing in technology now that I think it’s hard to just say, sort of summarily, they're behind. But it is a concern!
KS: Yeah, probably because they've been creatures of the way big suppliers, for years, just the way corporations have, creatures of the big box — the people that bring, you know, do all the consolidating, the old Oracles and IBMs and companies have changed and become more consumer focused in the workplace. But you know, it’s a really important thing, it’s such a waste of money at this point.
RH: Yeah, absolutely. I think there's also this side issue where I think that a lot of startups and a lot of tech companies in the private sector end up attracting more talent than necessarily government does.
KS: Yeah, why would you wanna work for government?
RH: And so I think the solution to that, which is a really, really tough thing to solve, is making people feel like working in government, like you can actually get shit done, like you can actually — and I think you can — I just think there's a lot more we can do to make that a reality and I think that in turn will attract better talent and sort of solve the problem in that way as well.
LG: Okay. this one appears to be from Chris Hoogland on Twitter, @ChoagChrs. Obama's use of tech, BlackBerry, etc., has been pretty positive. Both Hillary and the Donald have not. Does this matter? This is sort of a nice segue from what we were just talking about previously. It does seem that, in a lot of ways, the Obama administration has been a little more forward in terms of its adoption of technology — dude even wears a Fitbit! That's a whole other story. Rebecca, what are your thoughts on this?
RH: Well, I think that Obama has done a really, really good job of not just adopting technology but also focusing on it within his own administration and really trying to put forward an effort to make his staff and everything within the White House a little bit more tech focused, from what I've read. In terms of, though, his use of technology in connecting with the American public, which I think is really interesting — because he's used Twitter, he's used Medium, I think in a really interesting way. I think that's been awesome and I wanna see more and more of that from public officials because we do have these platforms now where we can be connected and hear from them directly, and I think it’s also a way for us to hold public officials accountable in a way for a lot of things.
KS: Yeah, it’s a way to be on. I'll be honest, though, Trump is an excellent Twitter candidate, he's the first Twitter candidate, real Twitter candidate, versus anybody else, and whether you like him or not he's really good at it, he's really quite good at social media, at least Twitter. And I'm sure Jack Dorsey cries every night over that issue. [laughter]
LG: But I think the question, the ultimate question is, does this matter? So this person says both Hillary and the Donald have not really adopted technology, we're gonna say that's not necessarily true, it depends on what type of technology you're talking about. If you just were to distill this into sort of the two remaining candidates and how they are both utilizing technology, does it matter at this point? And I think it does, I mean I think it really does.
RH: Yeah, I absolutely think it matters! Not just from what we just talked about, from a life-enhancing democracy standpoint, but I think in terms of campaigning, it’s a huge, huge asset because I think, you know, throughout the last 25 years or so the main way you campaign is you raise a ton of money and then you spend it mostly on television advertising. But millennials who will represent 40 percent of the American electorate in just four years, by 2020, they don’t consume content that way! It’s all digital media and social media focused, and so I think that's good news for campaigns. I think you can — if you can run a really well done social media and digital media focused campaign, where things are really shareable and they kind of spread, it’s a really, really effective way to run a campaign because things can go viral and things that you share far and wide, and it’s much cheaper. So I think it’s really important.
KS: Okay, last question and then we'll get to the last part. There's no answer for this, from Shira Ovide, @ShiraOvide: Can I mute all political news between now and November? Noise-canceling politics! That would be great! No you cannot.
RH: I don’t blame her, I don’t blame her, it can definitely get a little much to handle sometimes ...
KS: Yeah, you may not. You must be subjected to this horror show that is our country.
LG: I have a question for you, Rebecca. What are your own personal guidelines for posting about politics on platforms like Facebook? Do you have sort of guidelines that you adhere to where you think, "Ah, I really don’t wanna say that," or, you know, "I'm a biased journalist so I should probably write this because …"
RH: You mean personally?
LG: Because on my own Facebook feed, things are getting pretty out of control, and I talk to a lot of people that say, oh you know, I had to like block Uncle Jerry the other day because he was just getting so nuts on Facebook. Or some people will say, but yeah! You should be able to write whatever you want on Facebook, it’s a free country, and we have freedom of speech and all that, and you know, so I'm kinda curious to hear what your thoughts are on Facebook posting, about social media, at this stage in the campaign.
RH: Yeah definitely, I mean I'm pretty — I don’t really hold myself back much with posting on Facebook in terms of sharing my opinions about things. But I just happen to be, politically and ideologically, a very moderate person, so it’s not very often, just by chance, that I post something that really pisses off and offends a lot of people, but there are — and I think this is true of everyone, everyone has particular issues, that's different for each person, that they care the most about, or that they feel the most passionate about. So if it’s one of those issues ... There's pretty much one issue that to me, regardless of anything else, is black and white! And it’s that anything that even hints on infringing on someone's rights based on their race, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, whatever, is such a no, is such an "oh no" to me. That's the one issue that I'm very passionate about. For everyone, that issue varies, but so if it’s an issue like that, that's the one. That’s really the time when I will post something and really not hold back my opinion about it because I don’t look at that as politics even, or like as ideology, that just to me is like — not common sense, but it’s a separate thing that everyone regardless of their political party or whether they're conservative or liberal, that should unite all of us. So that's kind of how I approach it.
LG: Well, because it’s a really dangerous thing! In any kind of democratic society to think that people will only be seeing information that only aligns with their pre-existing ideologies, but if more and more people start to mute people in their feeds that — well, I don’t really like what they said so I'm just going to unfollow or mute or block or whatever it might be, then that is essentially what our feeds are going to turn into: They're going to turn into ... The other night someone in my feed, I have to admit, they wrote something on the 4th of July that was kind of thoughtful about fireworks and how they disturb the neighbors and the babies and the pets and everything else and I thought okay, I kind of agree with this person, this particular topic, and then the very next morning the same person in my Facebook feed went on this crazy uninformed rant about the Hillary Clinton-FBI email server fracas. And I thought, this is a completely unbalanced view from what this person had just written and I'm tempted to unfollow them.
KS: Oh go ahead, Lauren, unfollow people. I do it every day!
LG: It was so uninformed, it was so wrong.
KS: Unfollow, unfollow.
LG: Yeah but I mean really, if you keep doing that then that is really what your social feeds and your news feeds will become. It'll just become things that are tailored to whatever you already think anyway, it’s supporting what you already think.
KS: I think you read widely enough to understand.
LG: Well I —
KS: So, unfortunately, we have to get to the next part, but it’s an interesting issue of where we go from here in politics.
LG: Do you block people on your feeds?
KS: All the time. Constantly.
LG: Facebook, Twitter, everything?
KS: I say fuck you, goodbye. Yes and I in fact tell them I'm doing it, I let them know.
LG: What makes you do it? What’s your breaking point?
KS: I don’t know, like usually not civil discussion. And they start to get, like, an asshole, you know when they start to say asshole things. I don’t mind disagreeing with people, when they get like rude or personal. And then they get like, you can’t block me! And I'm like wrong, you would be, I certainly can! [laughter] And then they go on a rant, I always see it, they say, Oh Kara Swisher's blocked me. I'm like oh well, if that's what you spend your time worrying about.
LG: It’s a badge of honor, okay.
KS: Okay, go away, like you've been blocked by Elon before, right? [laughing]
LG: Yeah, I still don’t know why he blocked me but we're over it now apparently! Cause now I can follow him again.
KS: Alright, okay. [laughter] Rebecca, you've been a great guest but now we're gonna play a game that we do on this show. Lauren, why don't you explain it?
LG: Sure, it’s called Too Embarrassed to Answer, and I'm going to ask you three questions before we let you go here, and the questions are all about recent tech news, and you're all about news so for you this should be relatively easy, and then in the end you get a prize. Although we say that all the time and then to be honest, we still haven't determined what the prize will be. Maybe the next time you're out in San Francisco, we'll take you to lunch.
KS: Probably not.
RH: I'll take you up on that.
LG: Here's the first question, number 1: We learned this week that a company that recently suffered a major hack is now being investigated by the Federal Trade Commission. According to an article in The Verge, this investigation may be targeted at the company's use of fake customers, called Fembots. Rebecca, what company is the FTC looking at? Is it A) Home Depot, B) Target, or C) Ashley Madison?
RH: I'm gonna go with Target.
LG: Wow, imagine if Target had fembots, that would be awesome. You would like go to buy I don’t know a water pitcher on their site and a fembot pops up and she's like, are you sure you wouldn't like ice cube trays!
RH: Oh! Ashley Madison -
KS: Yeah the gross dating site, Ashley Madison.
LG: Yeah, it’s C, Ashley Madison. [laughter] No, but I love that, I love that you thought Target would have Fembots, that's so great, maybe Target should do that. And they also, you know, they were hacked pretty badly so ...
KS: I don’t even like the word Fembots. The next one comes from a recent Recode article: According to a new report released by Google, which of the following gestures can its self-driving cars now understand? The thank you wave, cyclist's hand signals, the middle finger.
RH: Um, I'm gonna go with ... cyclist hand signals, although I wish it was the middle finger!
KS: Yes. You are correct, but they do recognize the middle finger, they do.
LG: Do you know that for a fact?
KS: Yeah I know it for a fact.
LG: Kara knows, she's given the middle finger to a self driving car.
KS: Tested it out.
LG: And it logs this, Kara showed you the finger. Okay, and the last question, as covered recently in The Verge: A security developer named Matthew Garrett who is known for writing reviews of internet-of-things gadgets, recently wrote a scathing Amazon review of one particular gadget, calling it stupendously insecure. Saying it would put buyers at risk. In fact, afterwards, the product was removed from Amazon. What was the smart home gadget that Garrett wrote about? Was it A) a smartphone refrigerator that connected to Twitter and put Twitter accounts at risk, B) a Tide branded Amazon dash button that when pressed, ordered people a bunch of condoms rather than Tide laundry detergent, or C) a Chinese manufactured smart light switch that lets you remotely control your home light sockets, but exposes your Mac address.
RH: Oooh! I'm gonna go with the third one.
LG: Ding ding ding!
KS: Ding ding.
LG: Can we do a sound effect there instead of my voice? [laughter] You are correct!
KS: You are correct.
LG: You got two out of three and we owe you lunch.
KS: Mmmm ... we do? [laughter] No, she committed to it! She's committed. She should be committed.
LG: Kara's in New York right now, she should take you for lunch in New York.
KS: Yeah no, I'm out of here tomorrow! I'm out of here tomorrow!
LG: She'll take you to some cool place in Williamsburg, where she's been hanging out.
RH: Sure Kara, you have to leave New York just to get away from having lunch with me, it’s okay!
KS: No not at all, I love New York, but I do like Williamsburg, shockingly. Its full of — by the way, the people there are very liberal, it seems to me. There's a lot of Bernie Sanders people still hoping and dreaming there [laughs]. Yeah, there's a lot of, there's still a lot of man buns, which is fascinating to me. You think they'd be shamed out of man buns, but they haven't been. I like that they stick with their horrible hair style.
LG: When you're mayor you should just ban man buns!
KS: My son wore a man bun the other day, I was so upset. [laughs]
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.