Two and a half years ago, Too Embarrassed to Ask graduated from being a B-segment on Recode Decode, launching its own weekly podcast. And now, having answered your questions about everything from Snapchat to Juicero to tech addiction, it’s time to say goodbye ... or maybe Goode-bye?
This week, Recode’s Kara Swisher reunited with her longtime co-host Lauren Goode (now a senior writer at Wired) for one final show and one final “hashtag money.” They talk about wearables, podcasts, Phoebe’s twin sister on “Friends,” Facebook’s year of scandals and — of course — their cats. Give it a listen and stay tuned for a new Kara Swisher podcast, coming this fall. If you subscribe to Too Embarrassed to Ask now, make sure to stay subscribed; you’ll automatically get the first episodes of Kara’s new show once it’s ready.
You can listen to Too Embarrassed to Ask on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Overcast or wherever you listen to podcasts. Below, we’ve shared a lightly edited full transcript of Swisher and Goode’s finale.
Kara Swisher: Hi. I’m Kara Swisher, editor at large of Recode.
Lauren Goode: And I’m Lauren Goode, senior writer at Wired.
How did you get in the building?
Our titles have both changed!
And you’re listening to Too Embarrassed to Ask, coming to you from the Vox Media podcast network. This was the show where we answered all of your questions about consumer tech.
Hey, was that past tense?
You stopped answering things after I left I see.
I had no answers after you left. Only statements of fact. Anyway, today is actually the final episode of Too Embarrassed to Ask, which is why we brought back our friend Lauren Goode and actually let her in the building. She was at Recode and The Verge for a long while and before that, we were at AllThingsD, too. All Things Digital.
That’s right. For the past few months, she left us to go to Wired ... Magazine, or just all of Wired?
All of Wired.
All of Wired, where she’s taken over the place. We’re going to talk about what she’s been up to in that time. Some of the biggest news stories that we’ve now had a chance to discuss together and what’s coming up next. We have some miscellaneous questions from our readers and listeners who have missed Lauren dearly. That’s all two of them.
Oh, no. Really? “Yes. No. 42.” Those are my answers.
First, I want to set upfront, if you enjoyed Too Embarrassed to Ask over the years, please stay subscribed to this feed. We’ll be quiet for a month or two and be back in the fall with a brand new show to replace it, which I cannot tell you — I have a new partner, who I’m not revealing at this point.
Is it Casey Newton?
Is it Louie Swisher?
No. It should be. Those are two good guesses, but no.
Is it Eric Johnson?
No. I’m not going to help you here.
It’d better be a woman, then.
Okay. All right. Sure. Why not? Whatever. I’m not telling you who it is! There’s no way I’m telling you.
It’s Donald Trump. He and I are going to have a show together. It’s going to be great.
It’s going to be our favorite tweets. It’ll be unlike any podcast Recode has ever done and we’re really excited about it. In other words, it’s going to be fantastic, but still we want to pay homage to you, Lauren Goode. If you subscribe to this feed, you will get the first episode of the new show automatically. It’s not going to be quite like you, but you know...
Oh, I know who it is.
No. Shush! Will you stop? Keep it to yourself! So, Lauren, what ...
I just figured it out.
What have you been up to?
Yeah, right. Whatever.
Whatever. I’ve been waiting for you to come to the conclusion that you miss me.
Not happened yet. I’m sure it will at some place.
I really can’t believe this podcast is ending!
Probably on my deathbed.
Why is it ending?
Because everything dies, Lauren.
No. No. No. I want to just extract from you why this podcast ended after I left. Tell me. I mean, it’s only been a few months.
Without you, it wasn’t any good ... Actually, it was going fine. It was actually going fine. We just have a better idea. That’s all. You know me. I change things out, don’t I? I’m always changing things out.
You got to keep moving.
I got to keep moving.
My grandmother used to say, “If you don’t move it, you’ll lose it.”
Got to keep moving. Listen, I change things all the times. I changed from AllThingsD to Code, to this, to that, to selling. I don’t care.
Well, this has been such a fantastic show, and I have continued to listen.
Thank you. It has. It was pioneering.
But I have continued to listen.
Actually, it’s been doing very well, and it’s making a lot of money, but we have another idea we think will be ... and I like a new challenge, and I miss Lauren, of course — not really. Anyway, I do like to have a little partner in crime, so I’m getting a new partner in crime that’s gonna work out well.
That’s great. Is it going to be focused on consumer tech?
Everything. It’s gonna be good. It’s gonna be good. Trust me.
I look forward to it. Are you gonna use the words “too” or “embarrassed” in it?
No, not at all. Too Embarrassed was originally part of the Recode Decode podcast. Remember, we had sections?
Yeah, we did, and then you invited me on to do a segment.
A segment. Yeah, exactly.
And then everyone said, “Oh, who is that fantastic person doing that segment?”
Yes, and we decided to make a podcast from it, and that’s how we moved here. This is gonna be similar. It’s something that’s worked really well for us, and we’re gonna do some pull it out and stuff like that. But the Recode Decode itself will continue, but this one will be called something else.
It will be called “My Little Pony.” I’m kidding.
“There Must Be a Pony In Here Somewhere.”
“My Little Pony.”
Wasn’t that the name of your book?
So, what have you been up to? Yes, it was.
I have been up to ... I’m doing a lot of writing at Wired!
Yes, I understand that.
Still covering the consumer tech industry. I’ve been traveling quite a bit.
Right. I’ve seen you in places. You were at Comic-Con.
I’ve been writing about companies like Microsoft, Sonos. I went to Comic-Con for the first time.
I can’t believe you hadn’t been there.
Yeah, it was really fun.
How was it? Really?
Yeah, it really was.
Or was it just you were watching kooky people fun?
Well, yeah. It’s great people-watching, and I interviewed celebrities for Facebook Live, some of whom I didn’t know who they were.
Who were they?
There were cast members from “Game of Thrones,” although working on different projects. I interviewed people from the show “Krypton,” people from the show “Midnight Texas.” I interviewed people from “Star vs. the Forces of Evil,” a Disney show. I’m trying to think. Oh, the upcoming cast of the new animated “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.”
I mean, they’re actors who are voicing it.
I’m glad I wasn’t there.
Oh, it’s really fun.
You had fun. Did you dress up?
I wore a Wonder Woman t-shirt.
That was it.
You didn’t dress full Wonder Woman?
No, I didn’t go all out, which is the thing about Comic-Con. You need to go big or go home, pretty much.
They do. They do.
But my favorite costume was a bunch of furries who ... they actually were dressed up like the furries from “My Neighbor Totoro.” Google it. And it was really fun. They were wearing these giant, very hot, physically hot costumes down the street in San Diego.
I don’t even wanna think about furries because, as you know, there’s a whole different subgenre that ...
Yes. Yes, indeed.
Look it up.
But no, mostly what I’ve been covering ... Apple, Microsoft, Sonos, Amazon, new products. There have been some product launches in recent months. I’ve done some real deep dives into the making of products. I’ve reviewed some items.
So, you’re the big cheese over there?
Well, I’m not the big cheese at all. I would never describe myself as the big cheese. Even when I take your job someday, I’m not gonna be the big cheese, ‘cause you’ll always be the big cheese. The way that Wired is structured, there’s the Gear section, which is really the consumer tech section and all things reviews. It’s not just, by the way, tech. Sometimes you review apparel and things like that as well — backpacks and whatnot. That section of Wired is still at its core the gadget-y, gear, futuristic-looking stuff, and we don’t have a huge writing staff like some newsrooms do. So, really the team is ... so, I’ve been writing a lot.
You’ve been writing a lot, though. What’s your favorite thing you’ve written?
My favorite thing I’ve written is hard to say. I really enjoyed writing about and reviewing the new Sonos Beam. I think Sonos is a really interesting company, and this was before they filed their S-1 to go public.
What’s new about that Beam?
So, they were talky at the time. Now, they can’t talk. They’re in a quiet period.
What about the Beam?
The Beam, it’s a soundbar for your TV.
But didn’t they have that before?
They did have that before. They had two, the Playbase and the Playbar, but they were $700 and they were giant. They were trucks under your TV.
Mm-hmm. I have one.
This was shrunken and less expensive and has some of the constraints of a smaller speaker. It doesn’t sound quite as room-filling, but it’s a pretty good product, and it has Alexa in it.
Yeah, I gave mine away. They sent it to me.
You gave it away?
Who’d you give it to?
I don’t remember.
Well, whoever you are, Kara’s friend, you are lucky because I like that thing.
I know, but I couldn’t keep it. I already have one, anyway. I don’t want two.
I also listened to Microsoft. I spent a day at Microsoft, and I went into their labs and met with a couple executives and talked about where they’re going with the Surface line, which is a big deal with Microsoft-
Oh, that’s a big-ass table.
Because Microsoft hasn’t, well, Microsoft has only been in laptops, you know, PCs, making their own, for about six years, and so this was the newest version of their Surface, or this is the newest version of the Surface tablet. It’s called a Go.
Oh, this is the Surface tablet. Not the big-ass table that Balmer debuted.
No, not that one. Although, that was the name back then. You are correct.
The big-ass table?
Yeah, that’s what they called it.
It was called the Surface, and they do still have a giant display-like thing called the Surface Hub, but the Surface line is really about laptops. Microsoft, of course, has always shipped to other companies, to enterprise clients, and what they were trying to do when they announced the Surface is take control over laptop hardware and also get consumers excited about their laptops.
Cool. So, you’ve been all over these. Now, one of our last episodes together was about the Cambridge Analytica scandal right after it broke, in March.
Oh, my gosh. That’s right.
How do you think Facebook has done in the aftermath of that, just briefly?
Do you remember that we were taping that and then Kurt Wagner was in the room and then we got a phone call?
How do I think I’ve done?
That was Mark on the phone, by the way.
Yeah. Kara was like, “Hey, can we just interrupt this podcast, Lauren, because I need to talk to Mark Zuckerberg,” and I said, “Oh, yeah. I’ll think about it.”
That was on the phone. We asked about my interview with him, what you thought about that.
But what do you think?
What do I think Facebook has done? I think Facebook is now being overly aggressive in their press outreach because they have to be, and I think they’ve been hosting a series of these round tables with press and whatnot where they seem to be saying a lot but, in reality, maybe aren’t saying all that much, in terms of what’s going on behind the scenes. I still think it’s quite possible they don’t have enough irritants in their upper ranks. It’s a word I know that you use.
I always say that. I use it all the time.
You use it all the time.
That’s my thing.
In terms of how they’re thinking about product and how they’re thinking about managing their product.
They feel much beleaguered. “We’re trying.” I’m like, “I don’t care.”
Well, this week was — maybe, if you want to call it a bright spot — a little bit of a bright spot because they got ahead of the news and told press before it was uncovered otherwise, that they’ve spotted some meddling on the platform for the midterm elections.
Oh, come on. They want a candy for that? They don’t get a candy from Kara Swisher for that.
No, but here’s the way I look at that: I look at it as — and this is no excuse for Facebook — but there are always gonna be bad actors. The digital world is just a reflection of the real, physical world, and there are always gonna be bad actors and people who are coming up with loopholes and ways to perform bad actions, effectively.
What’s happening in Silicon Valley is that you expected the people here are supposed to be the best and the brightest and smart enough to get ahead of those bad actors, and sometimes, frankly, it just doesn’t happen.
Come on, it happens so much.
The question then becomes, how quickly can you address it?
Here’s my feeling: They made a fortune off of it, and they didn’t do any ... I don’t forgive them quite so quickly as you do.
Oh, I’m not forgiving them.
Reporters are so easy ... I don’t mean you in particular, but they’re like, “Oh, look. They’re being nice.” I’m like, “Please.”
No. Well, that’s the thing, too. It’s not about niceness. These companies are not your friends. I say this all the time about the wireless networks. The wireless networks are not your friends.
Not your friends!
They could be offering you some great ... you’re like, “Oh, I’m grandfathered into some unlimited data plan.” They’re still not your friend. The same is true for Facebook, and it can be a great tool to connect with people and do all the things you wanna do, and I know I browse Instagram all the time, but these services are not your friends.
I like Instagram. I like Kevin Systrom. Anyway, what did you think of my interview with Mark Zuckerberg?
I’m still listening to it because it was that long.
No, it was not.
So, how long ago was that? That was approximately two weeks ago?
Two weeks ago.
I think it’s still going. Is it?
Ha ha, no. Thank you. You’re welcome for all the material you people wrote on my slipstream. I don’t think there’s one person who didn’t use my work to enhance their own.
I know. I put it on my Facebook. It all comes full circle.
And then had no opinion, right? Do you have any opinions about Holocaust deniers you’d like to share?
Oh, my goodness.
What did you think of that? He really did say a lot in that interview.
Did you notice my suave technique of not saying a lot, not arguing?
No, actually I wouldn’t call your technique not arguing. What I would call your technique is being straightforward and actually saying, “No, this is a terrible thing and you should be addressing this.”
But I didn’t continue to argue like I do with you. I wanted him to talk.
Well, what I thought was interesting about that was how quickly Facebook emailed afterwards with a statement correcting his original statement, and it actually seemed to me ... Mark seems to be thoughtful and calculated in terms of what he says and when he says it, so it was surprising to me that that statement was such a foot in the mouth statement, I guess.
He said it twice, too.
I was surprised he brought it up. I was talking about Sandy Hook, and all of a sudden we’re into Holocaust, and I was like, “Whoa. Always dicey territory.”
Right, and how what happens on the platform is different from what he feels personally. He said, “And I am Jewish, and here’s how, effectively, this makes me feel,” but also … This idea that they would not necessarily crack down on publishers who were publishing that kind of content, even though it is blatantly false, if they felt like it was not violent in some way. It seems like that’s just moving a goalpost in a way that doesn’t make sense.
You know what? They act like they’re a country, and they’re not. They’re a company. They can do that. Disney fired Roseanne. You can do it. They just don’t wanna. That’s my feeling.
You’ve written a lot for Wired about virtual assistants like Alexa and smart speakers like Apple’s HomePod. What tech are you using day to day that is actually helping you?
My Garmin watch.
Really? Why, is it on right now? Yeah, look at that.
Because I travel a lot now and I commute now and it’s very hard for me to get my steps in and my fitness in and my adequate amount of sleep, so this helps me keep things on track.
So, it tells you how many steps you did?
If I wear it to bed, it tells me how much I’m sleeping, gives me my baseline heart rate, told me my steps I walked over here to see you so I could get my steps in ‘cause I didn’t get to the gym.
Lauren, get to the gym, for goodness sake.
It’s things like that. I really like that. And of course, my phone.
Although, look at this. Look at what I did.
It’s completely shattered.
You shattered it. Oh, look at that.
It’s shattered. I know. Both sides.
That’s hard to do. What did you do throw it at a wall?
No, I dropped it on pavement in the mountains.
And just the right way, too.
So, we did a couple of really fun episodes about podcast recommendations. While people wait to hear my new show in the fall, what are you listening to?
Oh, I love The Daily. You know The Daily.
Yes, I am.
You’re BFFs with Michael Barbaro.
I am. He’s gonna interview me in New York in front of young reporters of the New York Times in a couple of weeks. It’s gonna be fun. I interviewed him at the 92nd Street Y just recently.
That’s right. Thanks for the invite. Must have gotten lost in the mail.
Well, it was in New York!
You know, I’m in New York a lot these days.
Okay, whatever. You can buy a ticket. I didn’t have any invites to extend.
No, that’s okay. That’s okay. I’ll remember this. I wanna hear what you’re listening to, but I’m listening to a podcast from Rachel Dodes, who was at the Wall Street Journal, then she worked at Twitter, and her cousin Brian Hecht, they have this podcast called, “This Week in Nope.” And you know who turned me onto it was Walt Mossberg.
He’s like, “You have to listen to this. It’s really funny.” It’s a very irreverent approach to the news, and they say what their nopes are, and then every so often, there’s a good thing they said.
It’s a good podcast. It’s a very good podcast.
I don’t know if I’m supposed to share this, but I think I’m gonna join them soon. I’m gonna do an episode with them when I’m in New York. It’s gonna be really fun. Sorry, Rachel, maybe I just blew up the spot.
All right. Well, there you go.
I love The Daily. This morning, they had a fantastic episode on why the Democrats’ strategy for taking over the House in the midterm elections is a narrow strategy, and they discussed that quite in-depth, and actually how it’s not just about how the Democrats have been losing ground over the past two years, but how they have since basically 2008. It’s really, really good. The Daily’s just fantastic.
It really is beautifully produced.
What are you listening to these days?
I’m doing a lot of TV, actually.
I’m doing a lot of TV. Watching Netflix.
You’re watching TV?
No, I just hadn’t seen “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.”
Oh, I thought you were gonna say you’re doing TV.
I’m doing a lot of television.
I love “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.”
I did not love it.
You didn’t? Why not?
I loved the woman in it. I thought it was highly predictable. I know everybody loved it, but I knew exactly what was gonna come ... Although, I love the outfits, and I love all the furniture.
Yeah, the coat.
I liked everything. Well, I liked her. I thought she was great. I saw everything coming from a mile away, but I liked it. I watched “The Fourth Estate,” so I could learn about the New York Times. And then I watched ... that was a lot of white guys talking about Trump! I couldn’t tell them apart. I was like, “Which one’s that?” Then Maggie Haberman would come and complain, and drop a scoop, and then run away. So, the whole thing was very pleasant, and you know. Then Dean Baquet would just look fantastic, like he’s Frank Sinatra of the place. Like, “Hello, everybody!” He’d look elegant. It was very funny, but pretty much, I feel like that was everybody gained weight, and Donald Trump got more powerful. That’s how I looked at that, I guess.
As they progressed?
But, every time there’s a crisis, because you remember, you read all of them. Then, as you’re watching, it’s like: “Crisis again!” I’m like, “Haven’t you gotten used to this, you people?” It was a crisis, like: “Oh yeah, that crisis.” You should watch it. It’s interesting.
I will. I’m always looking for good stuff to watch.
You know, newsrooms are, no matter how you do it, newsrooms are real dull. Like, type, type, type and out. Anyway, it was funny.
I always get sort of choked up at newsroom movies. Like “All the President’s Men” and “The Post” and stuff like that, because I’m like, “Oh yeah, journalism!”
This one doesn’t choke you up. I feel exhausted for them.
But, yeah, I always wonder what other people outside the industry ...
I’m gonna see the “Mission: Impossible” movie. That’s what I’m gonna go do.
Oh God, really?
Oh, my God. It got great reviews.
You will not insult “Mission: Impossible.”
You know what ... Nope.
I don’t even like Tom Cruise and I like “Mission.”
You know what I would go see before I saw “Mission: Impossible”? “The Meg.” I would go see “The Meg.”
Who’s “The Meg?”
The giant shark movie. I would go see that 100 times before I went and saw “Mission: Impossible.”
I had to go see one of the man movies.
Who wants to go with me?
Not “Mamma Mia,” the other one. Oh, The Rock. I saw “Skyscraper.”
Eric wants to go. See, I’ll watch anything with The Rock.
It was great! It was 100 percent great, and it was very techie, you should go do a story on it.
I will. I’ll go see it. I don’t know if ...
It was about smart buildings.
Yeah, The Rock saves the day.
Of course he does.
Without one leg. He plays a ...
Yeah, he’s an amputee.
You know what I’ve been watching lately?
I love The Rock.
I know it’s not new, but I hadn’t caught up on before?
I may get The Rock on this podcast.
Is “Atlanta.” I’ve been watching more of that lately.
That’s good, too.
Because I love Donald Glover. I love Childish Gambino, which is his musical name.
He’s a huge talent.
All right, we gotta get —
He’s fantastically talented.
Before we go on break, because we’ve got questions from our listeners, we want to give you a chance to talk about one of your favorite topics, wearables! So you talked about the Garmin, so that’s what you got.
Are you convinced yet?
No. I don’t have one.
What are you wearing?
What am I wearing? A regular watch. My Apple Watch sits forlornly on my cabinet.
What watch is that? Let me see it.
It’s just a Skagen watch. It’s lovely. It tells the time, that’s it.
Why does your Apple Watch sitting forlornly? Is it broken?
I just can’t wear it.
Because it’s not charged?
You know, I love my AirPods, and that’s gonna be that. Apple will have to live.
So, you’re wearing wearables, they’re just not a wristwatch.
It’s just AirPods, yeah.
It’s not counting your steps.
I like my earphones, now that I’m thinking of getting a wireless pair, just now. Think I’m getting a wireless pair of earphones.
So you ... not wire-free, like AirPods, but something that has the wire that goes around the back of your head.
No wires. Wireless, to listen to music or stuff like that. I’ve been doing that a lot.
Oh, like big cans, like the ones you’re wearing now?
Yeah, big cans. I don’t know which one to get.
Oh, that’s a cool look.
Do you have a recommendation? There are a lot of them.
No, but I’ll get back to you.
All right. There’s a lot of them.
There are a lot of them.
You know, there’s some pretty ones.
Yeah, there are some pretty ones. Okay. That’s my assignment.
So, what about wearables for you?
Nothing’s new. That’s the thing.
There is nothing new.
Nothing is new, there are rumors that Samsung is going to be coming out with a new wearable in the next couple of weeks, which would be a surprise.
And you’ll go crazy, obviously.
No, I think Samsung has actually done a good job making wearables, but I tend to prefer things that are sportier.
Are there anything else? Is there anything else coming out?
No, we might see a new Apple Watch in the fall, but right now, anything that’s going on the wrist has really just been an inch towards incrementalism. There’s only so much they can do, there’s only so much battery life they can do, they track the same thing. I’ve been wearing this Garmin now for ...
Ooh, I love your Garmin.
I don’t know, six or seven months, and I reviewed it last year and gave it an Editor’s Choice award, when I was at The Verge. What’s funny is that Garmin just came out with a Garmin 5 Plus, which once again, has incrementally better features. Excuse me, Garmin Fenix 5 Plus, now it does Garmin Pay so you can tap to pay, and I can’t tap to pay with this one.
Oh, FOMO. Fear of missing ...
It’s the future creep that’s happening. Everyone is asking me right now what’s exciting with wearables — oh did you see that Snapchat had their second version of Spectacles?
I wear them, I like them! They work good. They work well. Excuse me.
Except I think you’re the only person that wears them. Where do you wear them?
I just did a few things for them, I think it works well, I thought the experience was lovely. I’m just not a teenage girl, so it didn’t — I never was, really. But I have to tell you, the experience was great if you are into those things.
Where did you wear them to?
I just bothered my sons with them, and they were like, “Mom, go away.” That was it.
So even your teenage sons were not into them?
No, of course not, are you kidding?
I wore them. I didn’t review them, but I tested them, I wore them on a roller coaster.
I go a sports band and wrapped them —
I’ll tell you something I did, a roller coaster in Hong Kong where I also wear a VR headset. That was amazing.
So you went on a physical roller coaster ...
While wearing a headset? Did you vomit?
No! It was cool! I actually did tons, my son made me go to a million roller coasters, and after a while they’re pretty much the same, they just look differently. Or they spin a certain — and you get kind of tired of, “Oh look, there’s the lake and it’s upside down.” Then I put the VR thing in and it was totally entertaining. I was in the ocean, I was flying, I fell off a cliff, it felt great, I loved it.
It’s a Samsung one. And on the physical roller coaster, so it was really cool.
Now, presumably, you already like roller coasters, even without the headset on.
They’re fine. This was more fun, I have to say, this was more fun.
More immersive. How did they keep the headset on your head?
I don’t know, they just glued it on. Who knows.
Huh. I thought there was something different about you. Is that what you’re wearing?
We did a VR thing with Eric, did it with us with my sons, we did this in one of the, what is it, in Hillcroft Mall.
Eric Johnson: Hillsdale.
Hillsdale Mall. Where we did a pirate game in VR. We wore computers on our backs and we had guns, or whatever, and had a really good time. That was fun! Because it was super interactive. So, first time I played a video game, really, that I enjoyed.
That you thought was fun.
Because we were all working together, and my one son played a lady, that was nice, a pirate lady. [to Eric] And what were you? Were you a peg leg? No, I was peg leg, who knows. Anyway, it was a great experience. I’m into VR now!
So did you have a dissonance kind of experience, because you had a peg leg in the video game but you have real legs in real life?
No, nope, no dissonance.
You didn’t have any kind of phantom limb feeling or anything like that?
No, I thought this was beautifully done, I would recommend it to anyone, this was really fun. And you felt like a group of people having fun together. And that is why — it didn’t feel remote.
You didn’t feel like you were closed off from the world.
No, I felt like I was having fun game with my kids. And it was great. And Eric. My kids and Eric.
I have an Oculus Rift sitting, or not a Rift, an Oculus Go, excuse me, sitting at home right now. And it is the kind of thing where people come over and they say, “Oh is that the new Oculus Go?” And you say, “Yeah!” And charge it up and put it on. People use it for like 10 or 20 minutes and then are like, “Okay!” And then they put it down and then want to reconnect with whoever is hanging out.
Yeah, it’s got to be with people.
Or it’s no fun. Anyway, so we have a lot of people to come. I’m here with Lauren Goode, senior writer at The Verge, because — I’m so sorry...
I’m here with Lauren Goode, senior writer at Wired. Because this is the final episode of Too Embarrassed to Ask. We’re going to need a “hashtag money” for the ages. Lauren? Come on.
Oh, we changed it! In the new year.
Is that for the ages? Come on.
We used to say ka-ching.
It’s for the ages!
Okay, I’m back with Lauren Goode, who does a terrible “hashtag money.”
When we told our listeners she’d be coming back on Too Embarrassed to Ask, our listeners sent us a bunch of questions for her. Lauren, would you read the first question? … Oh, God!
Who is this guy?
All right ...
Walt Mossberg: “I have filled my entire house with microphones and cameras and various Amazon and Google products. Now I get a jug of unordered detergent every day and my phone seems to know I’m watching reruns of ‘Downton Abbey.’ Is this normal?”
He’s got a lot of time on his hands.
I just want to let you know that I actually went to Jeff Bezos with your question and asked if this was normal, and all I heard was, “A ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.” Which I think means it’s all part of the grand plan, and it is totally normal that you are now getting these products shipped to you and that Amazon and Google know your every move. Welcome to 1984!
May I just point out, we did have a show on, while you were gone, about whether people are listening to — people that are doing the studies in, where was it, Northeastern University in Boston? And the ones that proved that they aren’t listening. Anyway, it was interesting, it was the idea that they are not listening, even though people have the conspiracy that they are. But they are watching, certainly, what you do with everything, continue to be watching everything you do.
I continue to stand by that argument when everyone says, “Our phone’s microphone is listening to us, and Facebook is listening to us,” people often come back and say, “They don’t need to because these companies already have so much data about you.” And I do tend to find that that is the case.
You already give it to them. Yeah, I agree.
I just went to a wedding, and for a while I was looking for things to wear, and so for probably a month I was getting all kinds of dress ads. Certainly, Amazon and everyone else knows right now, I need a new bathrobe ...
Do you? I got one for you.
Oh, all right.
Someone gave me one.
It’s new, it’s never been used.
You just throw the Sonos in the arms and I’ll be happy.
I will give you the bathrobe. We were looking at some hotels for an event, so they always give you a bathrobe at hotels.
Kara, do you think that there’s any going back from this place, or is the toothpaste out of the tube?
With data tracking.
No, they’re going to follow us everywhere, till the day we die.
All right. Eduardo Viero: “What is the most embarrassing question when you were both running the show together?” Huh.
I don’t know.
I don’t know.
What was the most embarrassing question?
I don’t know. I can’t remember that, Eduardo.
I remember we did a whole episode once on cloud services, like, what is the cloud, but I don’t think that’s an embarrassing question. I think that’s a good question.
No, I don’t think there’s ever an embarrassing question. Let me just make that clear.
Yeah, there’s never a bad question. But I’m trying to think of something that was actually mortifying.
Okay, next question.
We’re not easily embarrassed.
Anshul Kapoor: “Welcome back! Question one, where is Laura’s twin sister ...” Laura’s?
I think he meant “Lauren.”
“Lauren’s twin sister.”
I’m going to go out on a limb.
All right. “Where’s Lauren’s twin sister? Q2, what is the cool new unwearable you were trying,” you just said the Garmin. Do you have a twin sister?
She’s retired, but I think he’s referring to my old “Versus” videos series at The Verge.
Oh, right. Yeah.
With my counterpart, who would argue ...
Like Phoebe. Phoebe and her sister.
Yeah, except it was actually me both times. Was Phoebe her own sister? I don’t remember that?
She played her own sister.
Oh yeah. No, I don’t remember that.
She played evil Phoebe. Oh, no what was her name?
Yeah, it was basically ...
Eric Johnson: Ursula.
Ursula, that’s right! Yes, good 1999 reference there. He’s probably referring to that. So she’s retired right now, Eduardo. However, I would love to bring her back in some form, at some point, because I really do miss sparring with her.
Are you doing video at Wired? Are you doing video over there?
I am, I’ve done a couple videos so far. We’ve yet to launch a series. But, TK TK TK.
But you can see Lauren’s old series on “The Verge.” Would you say which ones they were?
Yeah, “Versus” and “Next Level” are still available on YouTube and theverge.com.
They’re quite good, you should watch them.
They were really fun.
All right, Kevin, @mediocre_tech: “What is the proper ride-sharing service etiquette, sitting in the front or the back of the car if you are the only passenger?” Oh, obviously, Kevin. But go ahead Lauren. ... Back.
I’ll say if I am with a group of people, I’m always the one to volunteer to take the front because I don’t mind at all chatting with the person who’s driving. Usually they have pretty interesting stories and I get to ask them their experience with the service, etc., etc.
But generally, if you are the only one, I go to the back. I think it’s more comfortable for everybody, sometimes I think the driver has probably been driving all day long and doesn’t want to sit directly next to strangers all day long and I kind of put my headphones in the back and chill sometimes.
I literally never get in the front.
So do you remember when Lyft first started?
Yeah, it was a shock to you.
And that was the thing. People used to get in the front and they would fist bump.
Yeah, I didn’t do that. That’s why I didn’t like Lyft for a long time.
And then the giant mustache on the cars. It was supposed to be super-friendly.
That’s two reasons why I didn’t ride Lyft for a very long time. I just like the meaner Uber, despite their ethical quandaries. It’s like, “Oh, I don’t have to talk to these people.” Also, in Lyft they’re more chatty, the other customers. I once by accident got into one of their pools, or line, or whatever.
Were people in the Lyft pool like, “Are you Kara Swisher?”
Yes, that’s what happened.
It’s awful, let me just say, and they were mostly drunk ...
What did they talk to you about?
... which I love, too, those are my two favorite things: Techies who acknowledge me and drunk techies who acknowledge me. Let me just say, it was not good. One wanted to hug. I was like, “Oh my god, you’re hitting all my despised things.” And I just literally wanted to look at Twitter and like: Leave me alone, and insult the president, pretty much. You know what I mean? I was like: “Please! This is my president-insulting moment of the day.” Or a slap at Bannon, “You’re interrupting my moment with my favorite time.” Bannon-slapping time. No, I sit in the back and I really give lots of messaging out that I don’t want to be bothered.
What happens if you get an especially chatty driver or a friendly passenger?
I’m so rude.
Yeah, I am. I’m sorry, I just am.
You know what I normally do?
I almost always have some phone call to make, I don’t particularly like talking on the phone, but I will always have some phone call to make. So if I get somebody who’s really, really chatty during the ride, I’ll just say, “Oh, excuse me for a second, I just need to make this phone call.”
And I find that once the call ends, nobody talks anymore. So just make a quick phone call.
It’s kind of sad about our society, but you know, I never talk to taxi drivers, and I don’t feel I need to change my behavior in this regard. Okay?
Okay. Don’t ever change, Kara.
All right. You know what I do, actually? I’ll be honest with you, I take a lot of buses.
Oh, that’s good.
I do, I take a lot of buses and Muni. I take a lot of buses. I like buses, people leave me alone. A crazy person gets on every now and again, so there’s entertainment, and stuff like that. Someone has an opinion they like to voice, which is great in San Francisco, everyone has an opinion.
Are you still going to run for mayor?
I don’t know. This city has really had some issues, hasn’t it?
Well, that’s why you have to fix them. You just don’t run away from the problem, Kara.
Yes, I’m thinking of running away from my problems. I know that’s not a thing a mayoral candidate should say, but God! This is a lot, it’s a lot. Let me just say.
But we’ll see. We’ll see how’s it going, but its pretty, I got to say, it’s gotten quantum-ly worse in the past couple of months.
Worse in what way?
It’s gotten dirtier, more mentally ill people in the streets, and nothing being done about it. A lot of drug use on the streets, I think that’s disturbing. Just too many homeless, it’s a tragedy for them especially.
It seems like the supporting services really aren’t there for them.
Tragedy for everybody, it’s a tragedy for the entire city. It’s actually a tragedy for the people living here, people walking home. It creates a really bad civic society, and it makes people dislike each other more, so thank you. That’s what I think.
Okay. Mayor Swisher.
I’m sure everything’s nice in Palo Alto.
Well, so Palo Alto, I mean of course there’s a serious juxtaposition of people with a lot of money and people with not a lot of money and people who can’t afford rent there, as well. It’s actually just completely ...
The housing crisis is a big thing.
The housing crisis is a thing throughout the entire ...
It’s pervasive throughout the entire Bay Area. In Palo Alto, it’s, you drive down El Camino in the morning and you’ll see people driving some of the most ridiculous vehicles you’ve ever seen in your life. It’s next to trailers and people who need to sleep in their cars.
I’ve noticed that. I was noticing that on El Camino. There were tons of trailers on El Camino.
People have a really hard time paying rent there, and there isn’t a lot of housing. It’s funny because this lunch thing has come up now, and about how ...
Yeah. It was last week the Chronicle wrote about it, the city.
Right. I think it’s happening in Mountain ... There’s a proposal for it to happen in Mountain View, where the new Facebook building is going, and it’s now the news has come to the city as well. I think people tend to have this perception of these pockets of people who are all very well-paid engineers who could go out and get their own lunch, but the truth is is that there are a lot of people who work in lower-level jobs, admin, support, security, things like that, who are already commuting two hours to get to their Bay Area job. Then in some cases, they’re sleeping in their cars, in some cases can’t afford lunch. There are serious problems with inequality throughout this entire area. It’s kind of shocking.
Yeah. It’s like using a hammer to kill a fly. It’s really an odd, honestly ... I’m sorry, Aaron Peskin, what a stupid idea. What a stupid idea. I just don’t ... It’s also so, it gives the image of San Francisco of being … and believe me, babied tech people are not my favorite group of people.
Right. You’ve called it assisted living for millennials.
Yeah, for millennials.
And rightly so in some cases, but ...
But, come on. It doesn’t make me a Republican, but I can see why they’re annoyed by this kind of behavior because it really is sort of a culture that just, it attracts mockery, and it isn’t a complex way to solve a difficult issue. It’s a stupid way to solve. Then it gets tons of coverage and continuing coverage of San Francisco. And the real problems are elsewhere.
I do know people, restaurant people, are having trouble, but it has to do with the fact that the streets are a mess, not necessarily that there aren’t a bunch of techies out on the streets. Believe me, I’m someone who blames tech for almost everything. In this case, it’s not their fault.
Mark, this one’s not your fault.
This one’s not your fault, but maybe it is somewhere. All right, so next question: “I’m curious to know, given the terrifying news that you can now download 3-D gun blueprints, do you believe that 3-D printer companies such as MakerBot should be held accountable for what could happen next?” Ooh, that’s a good question. That was in the news today.
That is a really good question. I do think that hardware and software companies are getting to the point where in some instances they have to take a stand. You could look at something like Microsoft and ICE, how that was a news story for a while about how Microsoft had on its website that they were effectively proud to be working with ICE to run their databases.
Yeah. Those are big ...
Then that language was changed by some employee thinking they were doing the right thing. Then Microsoft had to change it back, and there was this flare-up over this. It became this question of, well, how much does the services provider have to weigh in on this issue and should they have to take a stand? I think that’s the overarching question. So when you look at something like a MakerBot, which is a 3-D printing company, they make 3-D printers. They’re owned now by a company called Stratasys, I believe. That acquisition happened a few years ago now.
They make larger-scale 3-D printers. When you look at what they’re doing, they’re effectively providing a service. So then you start to question, should they be held accountable? In most cases, I would probably say, no, not necessarily, but at the same time, we are getting to a point where companies and large businesses and retailers are starting to take a stand and say, “Well, we’re pulling our product, or we’re not supporting this or we’re not working with this anymore.”
You know what? I think they have to make choices.
I think it’s a sign of just an increasingly fractured society, frankly.
Right, but that’s an excuse. They can make choices. People made choices from the beginning of time. It’s so funny, the whole thing. Same thing with Facebook is like, well, when Mark was arguing, “Oh hey, everybody ...” I’m like, Disney made a choice and fired Roseanne. That’s what they did, they made a choice. It was not popular. They lost money. They had to.
Facebook, for example, is not a country. If it’s the government, sure, they don’t have a choice. It’s a big debate, but it’s a company, they can make choices. MakerBot can make choices not to allow these on their platform.
Their parent company, in this case.
Their parent company can make choices not to allow these 3-D gun blueprints on their thing, or not. Or say, “Yeah, we’re going to allow them. We decided we’re going to allow them. We’re going to take anything.” And then if they get held accountable, that’s the responsibility you take when you make a decision.
I think, well, yeah, the question then becomes ... It’s hard to say. It’s like saying to someone, you can’t use a drill at home. If you do something with the drill that you happen to have and you downloaded something from an open source platform.
3-D gun blueprints. This is very particular ... Yes, but this is a very particular thing, 3-D gun blueprints. They can say, “We don’t want them on this platform,” do everything they can to keep those particular blueprints off. Now, they can’t stop them, but they certainly can make a stand on it. I’m not saying they can be fully ... The accountable part, I don’t know. We’ll see that in the future if that’s the case.
Probably they won’t be held accountable, just the way a drill, or ... But this sort of “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” argument is very complicated, and neither way is true. Guns are responsible, and they are not responsible.
Well, it’s the amount of damage they can do. That’s the problem.
Yup, exactly. Cigarette companies were held responsible. Of course, that led to obvious illnesses, but it’s an interesting question. I think these companies have to think hard, and especially if you’re an employee there, you certainly can decide you don’t want to work there.
I think the way to look at the question, too, is not just a company as a manufacturer of something but a company as a distributor of something.
It’s when somebody, so if you’re distributing the software that runs the controversial platform, if you are distributing the code or the open source software or if you’re a retailer and you’re selling something, the retailer doesn’t make the thing, but we saw Dick’s Sporting Goods and other companies, Patagonia, take stands on things ...
Yeah. I think we’re going to see that more in the future.
... and political issues within the past year or so.
What do you stand for? Patagonia’s done very well standing for what it stands for. Anyway, it’s a very thorny question, but I do think tech people get out of it by pretending ...
It’s a really good question.
It is a good question. It’s from Jeffrey Katz.
I’m going to go home and chew on that a little bit.
Yeah, chew on it.
You know what I’m probably going to do? I’m probably going to go home and chew on it and be like, “Ah, I think I want to change my answer.”
We’re having dinner. You’re not going to chew on anything. You’re going to chew on perhaps a meal or something like that. All right, three questions from Liz Weeks.
I’m so glad we had a question from Liz Weeks.
I know. “I have $600. What new gadget should I buy?”
Hmm! $600, what new gadgets? I would say save your bucks for now because you’re probably going to want to buy a new phone in the next couple months.
And $600 might not even cover it, so start saving.
Yeah. Apple’s coming out ...
Well, Apple, and Samsung’s going to have a new phone, it’s widely expected. Then Google will possibly have a new phone after that, so just ...
Which one would you buy of the three?
Well, I’d buy anything right now that wasn’t completely shattered on the back.
Okay. I’m with you. That’s a low bar there. All right, so a new phone. Okay.
But if you had to buy something right now, Liz, I would say either buy the Sonos Soundbar or buy, ooh, you know what I would say buy?
Buy a kitchen gadget. Buy an Innova or a Joule or something. I’m really enjoying my Joule.
Joule, what’s that?
It’s a wand. It’s a sous vide wand.
Yeah, it’s a wand. You stick it in a pot. Louie will know!
All right. Okay. What about the June Oven or the Brava Oven? There’s always ovens coming out.
I personally would not buy the ... Oh, so I did a story on the Brava Oven. I personally would not buy it.
Because it takes up a lot of countertop space. It’s $1,000. I can cook the same simple things in my regular oven, even though my regular oven, which is an electric oven, does take a long time to heat up. The most, you can only fit I think four servings at a time?
Right, okay. Not that, then. “I have $300, what refurbished gadget should I buy?”
Refurbished gadget should I buy?
What’s a refurbished gadget?
I would probably buy … refurbished gadget ...
Oh, just pick a gadget. It doesn’t have to be refurbished.
Okay. I’d buy a streaming TV box.
Yeah, that’s always a good one.
I’d probably buy, well, it’s $300. You can get an Apple TV for new. You don’t need it to be refurbished. You could buy like six refurbished boxes for that.
What would you buy for $300 refurbished?
Nothing. I don’t buy anything refurbished.
Get a Garmin watch.
Garmin watch. Here we go. “Why are there only, in my opinion, mediocre activity mapping apps: Strava, Garmin, MapMyRun, nothing stands out?”
I think, well, so first of all, I think of all of those, Strava probably does stand out because Strava has been the most successful at creating a network of people as opposed to the others where people don’t really follow their friends. But I think that’s what it comes down to is that there are very few, if any, fitness tracking GPS apps right now that have done a good job of marrying the features of a fitness app with a social network, making it so it’s sticky and you want to check it multiple times a day and you want to follow all your friends on it and you’re actually active on it. Because really, they’re just purpose apps.
They’re utility apps.
You use them while you’re doing your thing and then you maybe check them once or twice, then you’re done. I don’t think anyone has really done a good job of that yet.
All right. Let me finish with the most important question we’ve ever received.
Dieter Bohn: “How is Nougat?”
Nougat is still the best cat in the universe.
He’s really good.
We just switched his food recently.
Oh, really? Why?
He was having hairballs.
Oh, my goodness.
Is there any gadget that can help that?
No, but you know what?
Modkat makes really good litter boxes.
Have you ever heard of Modkat?
No, I have not, but thank you for the information. That’s a very embarrassing recommendation.
Well, I mean, you have a cat.
Tell me why. I bought the cheapest litter box ever.
Okay. I’m going to show you this Modkat, and you’re going to be impressed. The newest one is extra large, and it has a top loader or a side loader, or a side door.
Yeah, the cat can get in.
The cat can go in either way. I don’t know. It’s sleek. It’s like the iPhone of litter boxes, or something.
Man. All right, then. On that note! We’re going to end.
I don’t know. But wait!
That is where we end.
Nougat as a cat is the best pet in the universe.
We’re going to end on kitty litter.
I want seven animals. I want puppies. I want bunnies.
All right, Lauren, good. Here’s the thing: We need to end on kitty litter, is where I feel, this is where we began ...
No. We can’t end Too Embarrassed to Ask forever on kitty litter.
We’re ending on kitty litter! That is how I want it to go down.
Lauren, it’s going down there.
We can end it on Nougat being the best cat in the existence of cats.
No. Lovely is the best cat in existence, but we’re not going to have a cat-off.
Oh, Lovely. You know what?
I don’t want to talk to you, Kara Swisher, about cats. Do you want to know why?
Because you are the person who had two cats, and you split them up.
I can’t. I don’t know if I’m ever going to be able to forgive you for this.
The cat peed on me constantly.
It doesn’t ...
Yeah, it mattered.
The cat peed on me at least four times.
But your cats are mostly outdoor cats anyway.
The other cat is so happy now where the other cat is. I’m not going to go into it, but that cat is, Egg is very ...
I can’t believe you separated sibling cats.
You know what? They’re both happier. They didn’t like each other, and the cat peed on me. I feel like it was an ...
That feels like a metaphor.
It went to a home that loves, loves, loves Egg. Egg is very happy where Egg is. But back to kitty litter, the Modkat thing. Lauren’s ended on the most embarrassing thing that she could think of. Anyway, this has been ... Lauren, thank you for coming. I appreciate it.
Thank you so much for having me on this final episode.
This has been the final episode of Too Embarrassed to Ask. We’ve been at it for years.
Oh my gosh.
For years and years.
Yeah, two and a half years.
Two and a half years. Again, don’t forget, even though Too Embarrassed is going away, you should stay subscribed to this feed. If you do, you’ll automatically get my new show when we start in the fall. In the meantime, you should go listen to our other shows, Recode Decode and Recode Media. Lauren, are you doing podcasts? Are you podcast cheating?
I am. I am a co-host of the Gadget Lab at Wired.
Never heard of it!
We talk every week about gadgets, in case the name didn’t give it away.
Working on something new, but I can’t say much right now.
All right, so you’re doing a little pod. What are the podcasts over at Wired? I’m sorry, I’m not familiar with them.
There’s a Gadget Lab podcast. There’s a Culture podcast.
Are they popular?
We’re expanding the network.
Are they popular?
Gadget Lab’s been around for a few years now, so check it out.
Does it do well?
Does it have wild fans?
I don’t know. Listen, I don’t know if anyone can, I don’t even know if Michael Barbaro can say they’re a Kara Swisher-level podcast.
Oh, Michael Barbaro is way beyond me! He’s such a nice guy. He’s a nice fellow. Anyway, this has been a great time. Lauren, thank you so much for being so nice to come. I’m going to take you out to dinner afterwards as a thank-you for doing so.
And give me a bathrobe.
And give me a bathrobe.
No, no. I’ll give you a bathrobe. I thought you said backrub. I’m like, “No, I will not!”
“That will not be happening!”
What do you think, I’m like a media executive?
Yeah. Give me a hug.
Or a broadcast network? No.
Let’s take a Lyft Pool over and then we can.
No, no and no to every bit of this. I will give you the bathrobe when it shows up. Yeah, we’ve been looking at hotels, and they keep giving me free bathrobes. I don’t know what to do with them because I have like 10 now. Anyway, thank you to our hashtag money sponsors and to Cadence13 and Vox Media. They sold those ads so you could listen to this show for free and will continue to do so.
Thank you to our editor, Joel Raabe, and our producer, Eric Johnson, who also has enjoyed Lauren’s repartee over the many years. We will not be back next week to answer more of the questions you’ve been too embarrassed to ask, so try tweeting us. Lauren, read the last line.
Thanks for listening, everybody. I’m reading this because Kara is crying right now.
Just so you know. Thank you for listening, and see you soon.
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.