Full Q&A: Casey Newton and Louie Swisher on the 300th episode of Recode Decode
They talk with Recode’s Kara Swisher about social media, video games and how we’ll use tech differently in 2019.
The latest episode of Recode Decode with Kara Swisher is a bit of a milestone: It’s our 300th episode! To celebrate, Kara invited her older son Louie, as well as the Verge’s Silicon Valley editor Casey Newton, to talk about the state of social media, how their tech habits are changing and why Casey thinks 2019 will be the year we spend less time posting publicly online and more time in private group chats.
“If you talk to people about the kind of social interactions they actually like, it’s group text, whether it’s an iMessage, whether it’s on your Snapchat, talking to a small group of friends, you know exactly who’s there, you can share your in-jokes, you don’t have to pose for people, you can just be dumb, there’s none of this pressure,” he said. “If you use an app like Snapchat, all those chats can just disappear, they’re not going to haunt you forever, or maybe you just use iMessage and end-to-end encrypted and you feel like you’re probably going to be fine.”
Thank you to everyone who has listened to Recode Decode over the past 300 episodes! If you’re looking for more podcasts to enjoy, make sure to subscribe to our other shows,
Below, we’ve shared a lightly edited full transcript of Kara’s conversation with Casey and Louie.
Kara Swisher: Hi, I’m Kara Swisher, editor at large of Recode. You may know me as someone who has done more than 300 of these freakin podcasts, this is our 300th podcast here at Recode Decode. But in my spare time I talk tech, and you’re listening to Recode Decode from the Vox Media Podcast Network.
To celebrate this august event today, in the red chair we have two returning fan favorites, my older son Louie Swisher and Silicon Valley Editor of The Verge, Casey Newton. Both my children. No, they’re not.
They appeared together a bunch of times on my old podcast, Too Embarrassed To Ask with Lauren Goode, and today we’re going to talk about tech trends, social media and what the young peoples are using these days, which would be Casey. Louie and Casey, welcome to the show.
Casey Newton: Nice to be here. And I just wanted to congratulate you, Kara, on a huge year for Recode, you know, having Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk, and me and Louie, all in one year.
Casey Newton: What a huge year you’ve had.
Louie Swisher: We’re kinda the top tier, though.
I know you are, I know, you actually are, compared … well actually, Elon is pretty good. And it’d be funny to see you and Elon discussing things. We’ll talk about him too, we’ll talk about … there’s lot of things we have to talk about, and Louie made the plea to me that he doesn’t want to do “what the young peoples are thinking” kinda thing, because he does not represent all the young, correct? Is that correct?
Louie Swisher: I mean, you just asked me about it before, and I feel like I can talk about other things too.
Okay, okay, ‘cause you’re growing as a man, okay. But so Casey will handle the juvenile teenage …
Louie Swisher: Casey can be our resident teen.
Casey Newton: Exactly, all teen question, please direct them my way.
So we have a lot of stuff to go over. I do have to start with a big story this year, which is Facebook, and the mess at Facebook, and I’d just love to get both of your insights on what’s going on.
I know, Louie, you don’t use Facebook, but you use Instagram, and I don’t know if you use Whatsapp. There’s a whole lot of mess around Facebook, so Casey, thoughts? You have an amazing — name your newsletter, which is fantastic.
Casey Newton: Well thank you, I write a daily newsletter about social networks and democracy, it’s called The Interface, you can find it at
But to your point, Facebook has had a really, really tough year, and when I talk to folks there … you know, these days there’s kind of a sense of, I think, some real worrying about what is coming down the pike for them. I think they realize they’ve lost a lot of trust with their users and they are trying to win it back.
Casey Newton: Yeah, absolutely.
Do they have any sense of responsibility?
Casey Newton: Yes, I think they do. I think they also feel unfairly targeted, sometimes.
Yeah, they are, they’re victims.
Casey Newton: They feel like they’re scapegoats, and I think one problem is that Facebook is so big and it’s so consequential and it has so many effects on so many different things, that when you’re talking about “Facebook” you have to make sure both people are talking about the same thing, right? ‘Cause Facebook might be responsible for one thing, and it actually might not be responsible for something else, but really kinda nailing that down is difficult just because it’s such an enormous company.
I’m interested in their victimization, it’s exhausting to me, like it was such a different response with the Google people versus the Facebook people just recently.
Casey Newton: Right.
I call them docile, they’re just docile cult members.
Casey Newton: Well, here’s something I want to talk to you about because I actually disagreed with one of your columns recently.
Casey Newton: And I wanted to talk about it, so …
Casey Newton: Yeah, I know.
Casey Newton: Yeah, I know, this is my last appearance on the podcast. So, the most recent Facebook scandal that your listeners have probably heard of is what I’ve been calling the Definers scandal, which was they hired a public relations firm to target George Soros in ways that a lot …
Casey Newton: Among others.
Critics, critics of Facebook.
Casey Newton: Yeah, target critics in ways that some people have said were really anti-Semitic and this lead to many angry op-eds. And something that people said in the wake of that was, let’s really focus on Sheryl Sandberg’s role here.
Casey Newton: People have written many times about Mark Zuckerberg’s role in this, but Sheryl Sandberg sort of runs the policy and communications shop and so some people have said, it’s time for her to really get out in front of this and explain herself. And
No, I said she was much to blame and I said it three times, I actually did it three times, which people … she can’t say she’s sorry enough, you know what I mean? My point was that Elliot Schrage, who was actually in charge, and most likely hired these … it’s an Elliot special to … whatever was going on, and if you know Elliot, you know this was his doing.
And he came out like a loyal member that fell on his sword. I’m like, he created the situation, but he should do that. And so that was what … and then nobody’s mentioned Chris Cox, who runs, what is his …
Casey Newton: He’s the head of product.
Head of product, that nobody has mentioned Schroep, who’s lovely, nobody’s mentioned the CLO, any of them. None of them get … and Rose, all these people who all had a hand in this stuff, they just don’t mention her. I get that she’s sort of the high-profile person, but he gets let off like he’s some geek, like I said, lost in the woods, and they get no mention, and she gets … the words around her are she’s a Cruella DeVille, that’s all I’m saying, that’s what I was talking about.
Casey Newton: And you’re right, and look let’s face it, a lot of the criticism that Sheryl Sandberg gets is really gendered, and I think we should be really sensitive to that, and I think it’s really easy for people to talk about her in a misogynist way. At the same time, I felt like …
She deserves responsibility.
Casey Newton: And also I felt like the scrutiny that she’s faced over this has lasted for about five minutes, and I just think that the chief operating officer of a big company can take it. I also think we should talk about what role Chris Cox may have played.
And Mark. Mark controls everything, that’s my only thing. The other day, Sheryl was compared to Jeff Skilling at Enron. Jeff Skilling was the CEO. Like, stop! Come on, Mark should be compared to Jeff Skilling, but they don’t do that, that’s all I’m saying is that he owns all the company’s … he controls the stock, he’s the CEO, he’s the founder, he obviously controls huge sway over all kinds of business, for him to go, “I don’t know”? It’s just that’s how they do it. Like he’s some geek who’s lost.
Louie, let me turn to you. Do you care at all about Facebook whatsoever?
Louie Swisher: Oh, no, and I know none of this. This is the first I’m hearing of any of this.
All right, so you don’t care, it doesn’t affect you because you’re not using it anyway. Have you changed your mind on any aspect of Facebook? You never used it.
Louie Swisher: No, I still don’t use it.
Casey Newton: Tell us, what is the main way that you stay in touch with people you care about?
Louie Swisher: I said this before, like on Snapchat and text and stuff, but I’ve kinda really recently just been reducing my Snapchat consumption, like I went on a trip for Thanksgiving and I was without internet for a week, and then I just realized over the trip, I don’t really need any of this social media stuff, you can get too caught up in it. And so I’ve been like reducing my Snapchat use.
Louie Swisher: Because it’s kinda stupid.
Louie Swisher: Sending pictures of your face back and forth, like sure, but like …
Yeah, but you were doing that forever.
Louie Swisher: I was doing that forever, and then had an epiphany, I guess.
Louie Swisher: In Cuba, epiphany in Cuba.
What do you mean “stupid?” Do you think you’ll stop using it, or when …
Louie Swisher: I mean, I don’t think I’m going to stop using it, there’s still great ways, I think like the group chats and I like that a lot, and like how …
Louie Swisher: Not all the data is saved, and like it’s not … the text feels more formal, in a sense, and Snapchat’s more informal. I like that aspect. But just the whole obsession with streaks and other stuff, I’m not really … I thought it was stupid for a while but I was still doing it, and then now I have the excuse not to do it anymore.
So what will you use?
Louie Swisher: I mean, just talking to people, I guess, in person.
Louie Swisher: Yeah, that old thing.
That old thing. We used to do that, phone. You talk to people on the phone, though, a lot, right?
Louie Swisher: Yeah, I Facetime a lot but I also just like talking to people in person instead of just sending a picture of your face back and forth, being like, “Oh man, I Snapchatted this person but nervous to talk to them in person,” I think it’s better to take the first step and just talk to that … and establish like an in-person relation.
So you’re the analog generation, essentially.
Louie Swisher: I don’t know what that means.
It means in-person.
Louie Swisher: Oh, okay. No, no we’re definitely not, but I think we should have a push to initiate that and try to reestablish that.
What do your friends think, though? What are they doing?
Louie Swisher: I don’t think they really care.
They don’t care, they’re just using the Snapchat.
Louie Swisher: They’re just using Snap … it’s up to the individual, I think, if they want to use it.
But none of you use Facebook, in your school?
Louie Swisher: No, no, nobody uses Facebook.
Nobody uses Facebook, but you all use Instagram still?
Louie Swisher: I mean yeah, but I think Instagram is a very like, I’ve heard this a lot before, it’s like a very perfected projected form of yourself that you want other people to think …
What did you call it to me? You had a great term.
Louie Swisher: I don’t remember.
Louie Swisher: Oh, yeah I guess, it’s a museum of like images of what you wish you looked like or what you want people to think you look like. And I think that’s, in a way, kinda silly, it’s very silly actually, it’s kinda stupid. I think people just need to stop caring about others, ‘cause everybody has the same anxieties and stuff over that, and if we all realized that … and that’s what I realized, that we’re all anxious and stuff, what our Snapchats look like, what our Instagrams look like. Once everybody realizes that, we’ll realize the stupidity in it, and I think we’ll probably get back to what the apps were intended to be at their truest form.
Casey Newton: I have a hot take about social media.
Okay, hot take, okay. Hot take.
Casey Newton: In 2019, I think 2019 is the return of the group chat. If you talk to people about the kind of social interactions they actually like, it’s group text, whether it’s an iMessage, whether it’s on your Snapchat, talking to a small group of friends, you know exactly who’s there, you can share your in-jokes, you don’t have to pose for people, you can just be dumb, there’s none of this pressure. If you use an app like Snapchat, all those chats can just disappear, they’re not going to haunt you forever, or maybe you just use iMessage and end-to-end encrypted and you feel like you’re probably going to be fine.
But I think increasingly more and more people are just going to want to group chat and not worry about the rest of everything that social media has to offer.
What do you think, Mr. Swisher?
Louie Swisher: I agree with that.
Yeah. And you use that just to talk with friends, right?
Louie Swisher: I mean, I honestly find myself …
Let me just say, you’re on that phone a lot.
Louie Swisher: But not as much as Alex.
No, that’s true. Our 13-year-old now has suddenly started texting, he’s texting, which is interesting. That’s cool, it’s like hey, he has friends.
Louie Swisher: He actually added me to his group chat recently, I wasn’t really a fan of being in a group chat with a bunch a 13-year-olds. I tried to leave on several occasions but they kept adding me back.
Casey Newton: What are 13-year-olds talking about in group chats right now?
Louie Swisher: I don’t know, I don’t know, most of the words are like, not words.
They like a lot of emojis, right?
Louie Swisher: Oh no, no, it’s just like, I don’t even know …
Casey Newton: It’s a bunch of slang terms.
Louie Swisher: Slang terms that I don’t even get. I’m starting to feel like the older generation now, like I don’t understand what these terms mean.
Was there emojis?
Louie Swisher: I mean, yeah. Like, not that many.
They keep putting you back on the group chat?
Louie Swisher: Yeah and I keep trying to leave! It’s what you get when you have a 13-year-old brother, I guess.
I know, but you need to get in there and be cool older brother, and then leave.
Louie Swisher: I am the cool older brother.
I know but say some, “hey dudes,” like something like that.
Louie Swisher: I think me trying to leave the chat, I don’t know, like …
Casey Newton: I think you should stay in the chat but only say like, “Hey kids, don’t do drugs.” You know, just a lot of positive messages, “Hey, do your homework,” you know, that kind of thing.
Louie Swisher: Exactly, just like, “Did you finish your lab report?”
Casey Newton: Yeah, there you go, 13-year-olds love that.
Then they’ll kick you out.
Casey Newton: No, they’ll respect you for your authority.
They will not. We’re not letting you near that group chat.
Casey Newton: “No dessert unless you’ve done your homework.”
So get back to this group chat thing, so you think that this is how people … and also with video? Or what?
Casey Newton: I do think there is going to be an opportunity like for an Instagram to create some of these features that …
Wait, does Instagram have group chat?
Louie Swisher: I hope they don’t.
Casey Newton: So they do have group chats, and I think you’re going to see them lean into that and do more kinds of things for smaller groups of people, for your close friends, like I think that’s going to be a big theme for them next year. Snapchat is already doing this and I think it’s been really successful for them.
Louie Swisher: Why does Instagram need to do that?
Because they can copy and steal everything Snapchat does.
Louie Swisher: Well exactly, that’s kinda like their whole problem, everybody recognizes that. I think Instagram should stop trying to copy all these other companies because people can see that they’re copying it and they don’t want to use like those messaging platforms …
Casey Newton: Well look, there’s a strategic answer for that too though, which is that on Facebook, it grew so big that eventually, Facebook wasn’t your friends, it was your parents, it was people you saw once at a wedding, it was your ex, it was your boss, and so people stopped posting, because you don’t want to perform for your entire phonebook.
And as Instagram gets more popular, it’s inheriting that exact problem from Facebook, so Instagram has to figure out a way to make it feel intimate again, and I think you’re going to see it in Stories.
Your going to see it in … the people with the group chats then?
Casey Newton: Exactly.
Just between and among each other.
Casey Newton: Exactly.
Louie Swisher: But why can’t people just use Snapchat and text for those platforms?
Why can’t Facebook stop its rapacious march into everybody else’s business by stealing ideas? Casey?
Louie Swisher: Yeah, exactly, in smarter terms.
Casey Newton: Facebook is paranoid and they’re smart to be paranoid, because they know that every social app is a fad, and this will be true forever, and so in order to survive they have to keep transforming time after time into what works right now. Because what works right now might not work in six months, and so if that means copying, they’re going to copy because the alternative is death.
Right, but Louie, the copying is offensive to you.
Louie Swisher: Or they could just … the alternative could be staying genuine.
And make something of themselves.
Louie Swisher: Doing what people want, like keeping Instagram as what people think Instagram of … like doing what they came to Instagram to do, instead of like, I don’t go to Instagram to … actually I find myself, because when I was in Cuba, the Cuban government has blocked Snapchat, so when I finally got Wi-Fi, I was able to talk to some of my friends, but not over Snapchat because it’s blocked.
And so I ended up actually having to use Instagram as a Snapchat in a way, doing all the stuff like texting and sending pictures and stuff, and one of the texts my friends sent me is, “It’s so depressing that you have to use Instagram for this way.”
So I don’t think people are going to want to use Instagram that way if that’s what just two casual teens are talking about, I think Instagram should just stick to what it is, a photo-sharing platform.
You know, the founders left, and you’ve met Kevin, I found a picture of you when you were 9 or 10 years old meeting him, you were very thrilled to meet him at the time. Although you were happier … I have another picture of you meeting Evan Williams and you were actually a …
Louie Swisher: I was a bit happier to meet him.
You were very happy to meet him, you were like …
Louie Swisher: I think I was too young, I didn’t really realize who Kevin was.
Yes, but in any case, you’ve talked to him a couple of times. He left because he was not happy at Facebook and the direction Facebook was taking, and were you aware of this or not?
Louie Swisher: I think you mentioned it to me.
I wrote a column in the New York Times you might read sometime, it’s like a cool thing …
Louie Swisher: Maybe.
New York Times hired me to write a column that would be nice that my son would read, maybe one of the articles.
Louie Swisher: Maybe.
Maybe, okay. In any case, Casey, what do you think …
Louie Swisher: Maybe for your birthday, it’s coming up, isn’t it?
Casey, what do you think of that? With what will happen? Because you know Kevin was copying, and
Casey Newton: I’ve sort of become more sympathetic to that idea, actually.
Yeah, you seem to be. You’re like an apologist for their stealing.
Casey Newton: Well, sure, I think it would also be great if they try their own ideas, but what I will say is after they copied Stories — which was very shameless — they did start to build their own feature set around it. And the way that they’ve always talked about it is, “We think this is a format and we don’t think that any one company should have an exclusive license to it, so we’re going to try to build our own set of features around it.” And in a lot of ways I think they improved on what Snapchat did. And so, I don’t know … it’s just business.
They improved on a format, but why can’t they come up with their own format for the … that somebody else can copy?
Louie Swisher: Exactly.
Casey Newton: You’re totally right, they should. It’s just in any business it’s very rare for a business to have a chain of innovations, like for the most part, they have one or two good ideas for the entire lifetime of the company.
Is it going to hurt that Kevin’s gone?
Casey Newton: I actually do think it’s really going to hurt them. I think that now …
Not just Kevin, Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger.
Casey Newton: Yeah, I think … I wrote a piece called “
And they’re moving, right, exactly. And that was the problem Kevin had, that that was happening, he couldn’t hold it back.
Casey Newton: Yeah, although I would just put out there, we still don’t know what the final straw was for Kevin Systrom and this is my white whale, and I’m desperate to know.
The war meeting.
Casey Newton: The war meeting?
The one where he was like, “This is war, we’re at war.” I wrote about it when I wrote that column, when he had that meeting where he said, Mark said, “This is war,” like he was like in “The Godfather” or something, and Kevin was like, “What the hell?” And he sidelined him there.
Casey Newton: Interesting.
And he got super sidelined there.
Casey Newton: Yeah.
And you know, he’s very tasteful. I think he thought he has distaste for that, I would guess. He would have distaste for the fat, bloated Facebook platform.
Casey Newton: Yeah, he’s a really, really sharp guy, and he was also very competitive, and I think he continued to see Instagram very much as his thing.
Casey Newton: And then it kind of got taken away.
And they got dragged into the Russia thing, he didn’t like that. He thought that was distasteful. We met at one point, and he couldn’t hide it. He knew what he wanted to do, and they weren’t going to let him do it ‘cause they owned it. I think that was it. That’s how I felt at the Wall Street Journal when I was there.
Casey Newton: Oh interesting. And you started your own thing, and it worked out great.
Yeah we did. It was sort of like, ugh. I couldn’t do this. People would be like, “How’s the Journal?” I’d be like uhhh. You know what I mean? That’s what it was. Anyway, Rupert Murdoch’s an awful person.
Louie Swisher: Throwing shade at your ex.
What did you do?
Louie Swisher: No, I just said you’re throwing shade at your ex.
That’s not my ex, he just inserted himself by buying the Wall Street Journal. Anyway, I had no control over that.
So, last I want to finish this up on the idea of creating another social platform. People have talked about that. Louie, would you want another … If you could grow a social network, or a place where you could communicate with your friends that was from a green field, a lot of people are talking about why isn’t there a social network that you pay for, or a separate one with everyone being mad or upset with Facebook or bored with Facebook or any of the others. Why not create one? Would you want something like that? What would it be like?
Louie Swisher: I mean, I don’t really think I’m the type of person to be asking that. I’m not really an entrepreneur in that aspect. I think we just have to wait for the next tech genius in their parents’ basement to make an app.
Well, yeah, but what would you want? What would you like to …
Louie Swisher: I think, honestly I don’t know. I think it’s up to a lot of factors. Like what the public opinion is, what people feel there is a need, and in social media what there’s lacking. I don’t know, I think just time will tell our answer.
What about you, Casey?
Casey Newton: Well, here’s something I’m looking forward to. You may remember the social network Vine, which was started by Dom Hofmann and some others.
Yeah, you used to watch them, right?
Louie Swisher: Yeah, but then it got bought out.
What do you mean?
Louie Swisher: Like, I don’t know. All the Viners who were once like original artists, or not artists, like original …
Casey Newton: Creators.
Louie Swisher: They call themselves “creators” now. And so what they did was they had these funny platforms, and then they got too serious about it. And they started …
You liked the guy who’d slam his face in the door all the time. Who was that?
Louie Swisher: I have no clue who you’re talking about.
You did, you showed it to me.
Casey Newton: All right, let’s put a pin in that.
Louie Swisher: Yeah, you can take it away, Casey.
Casey Newton: So, it sold to Twitter, and then Twitter had no idea what to do with it and shut it down. Well, what we have found in the years since is people really, really miss Vine. And you go to YouTube, and they’re just compilations of old Vines…
Louie Swisher: Hours worth.
Casey Newton: … and they have like 80 million views, right? And so Dom Hofmann has the idea of bringing back Vine with some tweaks, and so next year he’s planning to relaunch a version of Vine, he’s calling it Byte. And I’m very excited to see what the next version of Vine looks like.
Where’s he gonna launch it? This is the founder?
Casey Newton: It’s gonna be an app, yeah.
This is the founder.
Casey Newton: Yeah.
So will you watch these compilations?
Louie Swisher: No, no. I don’t think I will. I don’t think … I don’t know.
No, but do you watch the …
Casey Newton: No, but you have watched …
Louie Swisher: Oh, I watch the compilations, I don’t know if I’m gonna ever download Byte is what I’m saying.
But why do you watch the compilations of Vine?
Louie Swisher: I don’t know how well Byte will do, especially with apps like Musical.ly and stuff that are just, become a joke in themselves.
Casey Newton: Yeah, we should talk about Musical.ly.
We’ll get to that next.
Louie Swisher: Or not Musical.ly, not Musical.ly. What is it called? TikTok. TikTok.
TikTok. Okay, we’ll talk about that in a minute when we get back, but why … you watch the compilations of Vines, though.
Louie Swisher: Right, because I think …
You miss the good old days.
Louie Swisher: It’s kind of like Disney taking their old classic movies and then revamping them to make some money. Like, sure, they’re gonna be good. I’m actually looking forward to “The Lion King,” it’s gonna be beautiful. But you can see, it’s not gonna be what it originally was, and it’s never gonna have that charm that it originally had.
I see. You did like it. You did like it. You watched …
Louie Swisher: Yeah, like Vine was really good at first, but then it got too old. It just progressed into something that it wasn’t originally.
So that’s all social networks are: A fad.
Louie Swisher: And I guess that’s what made a lot of people draw away from it.
Yeah. Well, that’s an interesting … So, Byte. When is it coming out?
Casey Newton: I believe we’re supposed to see a beta in the spring.
In the spring. And he’s doing it by himself, raising money from others.
Casey Newton: I think, yeah. He has some money, and I don’t actually remember if he’s raised new money.
And Twitter has put that by the wayside, just gone.
Casey Newton: No, and by the way, why didn’t Twitter just build a six-second looping camera into their own app? They didn’t need to kill Vine. But that’s another story.
We’re not gonna … ‘cause Louie doesn’t use Twitter.
Louie Swisher: I’m kind of glad they did.
Louie Swisher: Kill Vine.
Oh, really? Okay. You like it, ‘cause it lost the charm for you.
Louie Swisher: Lost the charm.
The nostalgia. The nostalgia of one year.
Louie Swisher: It was like, I don’t know. I mean, it was just kind of becoming … Trying not to think of a bad analogy. All I can think of is kind of like an old sick horse, and you gotta put it out of its misery. But I don’t want PETA coming after me.
Okay, PETA. All right, PETA stay away from my son. You have to come through me first.
Anyway, we’re going to take a quick break now, we’ll be back in a minute with my son Louie Swisher, horse hater …
Louie Swisher: No no, I’m just thinking like Seabiscuit, it just got too old!
Okay, all right. And Casey Newton from The Verge.
Okay, we’re back with my son Louie Swisher, and Casey Newton from The Verge. We were talking about a lot of things, we were just talking about Facebook, very interesting stuff around that Louie wants to kill Vine, and Casey was talking about Byte. But one of the things that you mentioned, Louie, was TikTok, and you don’t like these Musical.lys, these TikToks and stuff.
Louie Swisher: I don’t care for them. I don’t know, I never actually, I’ve never downloaded the app, I’ve never seen one that’s not in a meme, so I think you might have to bring Alex in on this one. He’d be more of an expert.
Casey Newton: I mean, as the official teen at the table, I’m happy to tell you about TikTok.
Okay. Tell me. Tell us.
Casey Newton: So, TikTok is an app by a company called ByteDance, which is a Chinese company.
Chinese company, yeah.
Casey Newton: And they let you film short videos, and there’s a lot of lip syncing that takes place. And so people who get bored at work or at school will just make these very funny lip-sync videos. And the app has become very popular, and it …
It was very popular in China, right?
Casey Newton: Very popular in China, and then there was a similar app in the United States called Musical.ly. ByteDance bought Musical.ly, integrated it into TikTok and now it’s just called TikTok. And it’s probably the fastest-growing social network in America, although it’s not enormous at this point.
But the thing that just trips me up is it’s like, if an app is made by a Chinese company, the Chinese government is going to have access to basically all of that data, right? And like, sure, if you’re just making a lip-sync video, that’s okay. But if you think about, if this network grows, that’s gonna be a lot of …
But it’s also in your phone.
Casey Newton: It’s in your phone.
I’m scared of the Chinese. You should be.
Casey Newton: You know, and I’m not trying to make everyone paranoid, but it’s a consideration, right? If you’re ever gonna use a social network, then think about where that data’s gonna be stored and how it might be used.
Mm-hmm. Louie? Do you use TikTok at all?
Louie Swisher: No. No, I never will.
You don’t do lip-syncing videos when I’m not watching? No.
Louie Swisher: No, no I don’t.
Casey Newton: The other big criticism that TikTok gets is it really does court a teenage audience, like a young teenage audience.
Louie Swisher: Like a 13-year-old audience.
Casey Newton: And so there have been a lot of creeps looking at 13-year-old girls doing lip-sync videos, and there were a lot of criticisms about Musical.ly that it didn’t do a very good job kind of policing that behavior.
Louie Swisher: Also, I think all the promotional ads I’ve seen for TikTok are including young girls that are like … It’s just they’re doing it in an inappropriate way. Like, it’s disgusting. They’re just promoting these young girls, and they’re using them in their videos, and I don’t think that’s okay. I don’t know if the user consented to that, or anything about that, but I don’t think it gives it a good look.
Right. I love my feminist son. This is fantastic. But because it’s selling, they’re trying … that’s why they’re doing it.
Louie Swisher: I think they’re just trying to appeal to a younger audience, but then …
Right. No, it’s appealing to men. It’s appealing to men.
Louie Swisher: Yeah, I mean like, yeah, I guess.
Yeah, it’s creepy.
Casey Newton: We should also say, I stand behind all my criticisms, the app can also be a lot of fun. It is a really silly fun. And Facebook took it seriously enough that they cloned it, and they made an app called Lasso and they put it out. And so that is now out there.
So what do you think of Lasso?
Casey Newton: I don’t think it’s great. The guy who ran it quit about a week after it launched, which is never a good sign.
Casey Newton: I call these apps “murder clones.” It’s when Facebook looks at your app and likes it, and so makes one expressly to kill it.
Doesn’t always work. They did it with, what did they do, they …
Casey Newton: They’ve tried it a hundred times, and it worked with Stories, and maybe a handful of other things. But it doesn’t always work. I don’t know. Lasso has not gotten a lot of traffic in its first month.
Louie Swisher: I have never heard of Lasso.
I’ve never heard of Lasso.
Casey Newton: Well, you’ve gotta stay in touch with the teens, y’all.
Is that with the Facebook dating service?
Louie Swisher: The teens are not in touch with Lasso.
Casey Newton: The teens are not in touch with Lasso. Yeah. It hasn’t roped them in yet.
Louie Swisher: Oh, good one. Good one.
Oh, there’s horses come riding through this podcast. So, one of the things you mentioned, Louie, is memes. That is one thing that …
Louie Swisher: I think TikTok is being used very ironically. Like, if you search TikTok videos on YouTube and stuff, you’re not gonna get genuine “best lip-sync videos,” you’re just gonna get people making fun of those people. And like, it gets to a point where it is cyberbullying. And there’s a point where it also points out the absurdity in some of these people on TikTok.
Right. But you look at a lot of memes online, right? Is that correct, or is that just your brother?
Louie Swisher: I think that’s more Alex.
Yeah, he loves memes.
Louie Swisher: I used to be …
So what’s happened with those? Where’s the memes going?
Louie Swisher: I don’t know. It’s really not … It’s an odd thing. It’s a very economic thing, too, and I think honestly us talking about it kind of degrades it, so I don’t think we should talk about it.
What does that mean, an economic … what is that supposed to mean?
Louie Swisher: Two adults and a teenager sitting in a podcast talking about memes degrades memes. I think for the integrity of them, we shouldn’t speak of them.
Casey Newton: I’m just curious, where do you see them? Are they sent mostly via text messages?
Louie Swisher: I see a lot of them on Instagram, and a lot of them on Instagram are stolen from places like 4chan and Reddit.
Oh, okay. Do you use those?
Louie Swisher: No. Well, I downloaded Reddit for a little bit, and I thought it was funny, and I saw some funny stuff, but it wasn’t really my cup of tea.
Louie Swisher: I don’t know, just didn’t click.
Really? You’re not a neo-Nazi. That’s good.
Louie Swisher: I don’t think all people on Reddit are neo-Nazis, Mom.
No, I know they’re not.
Casey Newton: There’s some really good stuff on Reddit. And Reddit doesn’t really interest …
Louie Swisher: Actually, Elon Musk supposedly joined a subreddit about memes recently, and that was quite the discussion.
Louie Swisher: I don’t know why, but I went on it and they said that like, Elon Musk is in here, let’s post Elon Musk memes until he comments back.
Comments back, what does that mean?
Louie Swisher: Like he replies.
Casey Newton: He responds to the meme.
Oh, he comments back. Oh, okay. All right.
Louie Swisher: See, this is why we can’t talk about memes.
Oh, comments. Comments. I thought you said “comets.” I was like, oh no, is that like the pizza place?
Casey Newton: Yeah, comet is another thing. It’s gonna make a comeback, bigger than ever.
But you were saying Reddit is …
Casey Newton: Well, I think it’s really interesting. One of the things Reddit does that I like is …
Which is still owned by Condé Nast? Is that right? Or are they separate?
Casey Newton: No, it’s a solo operation now. It’s a venture-backed company. And something they do is they have like kind of a floor of rules. So it’s like you can’t post certain kinds of hate speech. But then any other subreddit can kind of raise that floor, and they can make their own restrictions based on their own community. So, maybe if you have a knitting community, you can say “You know what, we’re not gonna talk about politics in here,” or something. And so you create these communities, and everybody has their own rules, and they can all get along better than if you’re on a platform with 2.2 billion other people, all of whom have very different expectations for what kinds of discussions should be allowed.
Sure. Sure. And they’ve also put the bad ones down. They’ve moved them. They haven’t removed all of them.
Casey Newton: Not all of them, but many of them.
Mm-hmm. They removed the worst ones, and then they’ve moved the bad ones down, or hard to find, and things like that.
Casey Newton: I’ll tell you the thing that made me most interested in Reddit recently is that my sister-in-law, who is a young mother, recently abandoned Facebook and Instagram, and her social networks are now an iCloud Photo Stream, where she shares photos of my nephews; and she’s on Reddit. And she has a couple forums that she likes to go, and she never posts, but she reads those every day.
So these are like chat services.
Casey Newton: Yeah.
Like the old chat forums.
Casey Newton: Well, yeah. So she chats, and then she just kind of browses forums, basically. But for her, that is enough social networking. And I though, well gosh, if Reddit can get my sister-in-law, there may be a lot more here than I’ve been giving it credit for.
Mm-hmm. Interesting. Interesting. What about Gab? These are these others … Louie, you may not know, this is where the man who shot up the synagogue in Pittsburgh and murdered all those people, he was thrown off of Reddit, or … ? He got to this site called Gab, which sounds like a teen girl site, and it’s essentially a free-speech site, which means it’s a bunch of neo-Nazis talking to each other, essentially.
Casey Newton: Right. It’s a Twitter clone that allows hate speech, basically. That’s the shortest way to describe it.
There’s a lot of those.
Casey Newton: It’s pretty gross. Yeah. But it has a very fraught existence. It lost, in the wake of that shooting, it lost its web-hosting, it lost its payment provider, and it was a platform that got de-platformed. It currently has those things, but …
In the same vein, there’s gonna be, a lot of different platforms are gonna start for the right-wing people, for the left-wing people. Do you see that?
Casey Newton: Yeah, I do think that we are going to see some fragmentation. And I’m honestly not sure it’s a bad thing that we see more fragmented social networks. Social networks that are smaller are much easier to control, and we need more control.
This is too big. All right, Louie. When we’re talking about the idea of people saying whatever they want, you talked about this last night, you know, it starts with Trump, with the top, on Twitter. You don’t pay attention to any of that, right? Do you pay attention?
Louie Swisher: No, I pay attention to politics, I actually find them very interesting, and I like following it.
All right, what do you think of his use of Twitter? And then you said, “But anyone can now say anything.”
Louie Swisher: Well, I think with a lot of people, I think as times are going on and people like Trump and speakers like Trump are saying these ridiculous things, and they’re having the ability to say them. I think we as a public become desensitized to these things. I was actually watching, it was probably a Vox video, I think, recently.
You love who?
Louie Swisher: I like Strikethrough, and I like Ezra’s shows, or whenever he does a video. I’m a huge fan of Vox. I also like the New York Times Retro Report, I think that’s very cool. But I think they did a video about how this type of language, and how it circulates around the nation desensitizes people, and things we would once consider absurd for politicians to say are now just normal. And things we couldn’t say …
So how does it impact you? Do you just ignore it?
Louie Swisher: I think, honestly, now people are like, “Oh, Trump did this,” and I’m like, “Oh, whatever.” I think if somebody said that to you when you were growing up, like, “Oh, Nixon did this,” and when he did the things he did, if he said the things Trump was saying, that would be ridiculous in those times.
I know, it’s crazy, yeah.
Louie Swisher: And so now, you know, Trump promoting hate speech and promoting all these other things that he does that are not good, I guess, in the simplest terms, I guess are, it desensitizes us as a nation, and makes us gradually become okay with the things he says. Or just be like, “Oh, nothing’s gonna change him.” So.
Yeah. You know he retweeted me yesterday?
Louie Swisher: Yeah, I saw that. It was …
Casey Newton: Trump retweeted you?
Louie Swisher: He didn’t retweet her, it was like an image …
It was a video.
Louie Swisher: It was a video of Hillary Clinton saying, “All black people are alike.”
But she wasn’t, she was …
Louie Swisher: It was not a good joke.
No, but it was not … she was meaning to …
Louie Swisher: She was joking on the joke that all black, like all black people are like.
Louie Swisher: It was not a good joke, I don’t think. She thought it was funny and the whole audience laughed.
I didn’t think it was funny.
Louie Swisher: You laughed and the whole audience laughed!
What it was is she was making fun of the joke, the bad thing …
Louie Swisher: But still, as a presidential candidate, she should’ve —
Let me just get through this clearly. I was talking about the idea of Michelle Obama saying, “When they go low, we go high,” and I said Cory Booker said, “When they go low, we kick ‘em in the shins.” And I said is that a change, and what do you think of this? And she said, “Actually, that was Eric Holder.” And I just thought it was Cory Booker, he’s been super aggressive that way, too. And I said, “Oh, I’m sorry, I mixed them up.” And she goes, “Well they all look alike.”
Louie Swisher: That’s not, I don’t think that’s okay.
But she was kidding about the joke of the joke. You know what I mean? Being there, that’s not what … she wasn’t meaning that in any way. And so, I was like …
Louie Swisher: Regardless if she meant that, she shouldn’t have said it.
I know, because she’s Hillary Clinton, and whatever, if she says “Hello” …
Louie Swisher: She always says the wrong thing. She always finds the right way to stay the wrong thing. That’s what I think.
No, but you hear it. Like, she could say “Hello” and you’d be like, “What in the world did that mean?”
Louie Swisher: No, no. I don’t think that. I think you as a Hillary supporter sometimes get caught up in it, and you …
No, I do not.
Louie Swisher: You don’t pay attention to the somewhat absurd things she says sometimes.
No, as with Sheryl Sandberg, she gets …
Louie Swisher: No, I know. I’m not saying that she doesn’t. You’re changing the topic. She definitely does, like, she definitely does receive a lot of sexist input because she’s a woman, and that I think partially …
Well, she’s also Hillary Clinton.
Louie Swisher: Yeah, she’s also Hillary. But you also have to remember. She’s also Hillary Clinton. She always says the wrong thing at the right time.
Okay, all right, okay. Good. I’m gonna …
Louie Swisher: We could have our own politics podcast.
But here’s the … He retweeted it. There was several different videos …
Casey Newton: So he tweeted a clip of it.
There were a couple things like, “She’s a racist,” with the video in it. And whatever the people are saying.
Louie Swisher: They left out a lot of context.
They left out a lot of context.
Casey Newton: Right.
And so he retweeted it twice. And so luckily he didn’t put my Twitter handle, I would’ve been dealing with the base all day long. But it was interesting because I thought, “Oh no, I’m gonna get inundated today and just trolled out my yin yang.” And someone was like, “How do you feel about it?” I’m like, “I don’t care. Whatever, what did he say today? Who did he insult today?” Because he was also insulting people in Mexico, the caravans, he insulted Mueller. Everything. He was insulting everybody. And Louie, you’re right, I didn’t pay attention to the 20 insults he did, it was like Twitter vomit.
Louie Swisher: Mm-hmm.
Like stabbing someone …
Louie Swisher: You just kind of get so caught up in it, you forget about all the things he’s saying, and if you break down everything, you can point out the individual absurdity, I guess, but we don’t do that.
Casey Newton: Yeah. We’re in a real tricky spot with this guy, huh?
Yeah. Yeah. Real tricky. Which, you know, I was thinking of doing a column of like, what would happen if he couldn’t be on Twitter? If we were to just cut him off someday. Where would he go?
Casey Newton: I mean, people say that, and here’s what would happen: He would post somewhere else and someone would write a bot that would screenshot it and that would immediately get posted to Twitter.
But it’s not the same impact.
Casey Newton: I think it’s like 95 percent of the impact.
All right, I’m writing a column about this.
Casey Newton: Okay, go for it.
Because think about it: So, someone would bot him and put it somewhere else.
Casey Newton: Yeah. Somebody would automate the process of taking whatever he was saying everywhere and put that right on Twitter. And you know, he could use Facebook, and then if he got kicked off Facebook …
Yeah, but would it work? Facebook? It wouldn’t …
Casey Newton: He’d use Tumblr. I mean, there’s plenty of places to post on the internet, he could post on Medium.
But I don’t think people rush, I think it’s a very interesting question if they did that.
Casey Newton: Yeah. I mean, you know. I don’t know. The guy’s the president.
He was on vacation for Thanksgiving, I was like “Oh, phew,” he didn’t say … and then he did. He went crazy.
Casey Newton: Yeah. It’s really striking how much he uses Twitter.
Yeah. It is. There were 20 of them the other day. It was really interesting. But, so you don’t think that that … Talking about these ideas, you’re anesthetized to this. Are you … And what can Twitter do?
Casey Newton: I don’t follow the president, I don’t follow him.
Not just him, he’s just the best troll there is, kind of thing.
Casey Newton: Yeah. What should Twitter do about …
Yeah, anything? Give me an update on Twitter.
Casey Newton: Twitter, you know, Twitter has realized recently that the tweets that perform the best are the ones that tend to make us panicked and outraged, and so they’re thinking about that. And I think they should, because the more you look at Twitter, probably the more panicked and/or outraged you will become, and it’s not a healthy way to live.
And so I think Twitter needs to figure out ways to make people feel better about themselves when they look at tweets. You know, in addition to all of the kind of scary world news, there’s also a lot of really funny stuff on Twitter. There’s also just a lot of people being people, and sports highlights.
Yes, I like it for that. I like the memes, Louie.
Casey Newton: There are some good memes.
Do you not use Twitter still?
Louie Swisher: No.
You should. You’d like it. He just threw off Jack Dorsey’s whole life. “No.” Why would I …
Casey Newton: Although there are high schools where Twitter is really popular.
I know, it’s actually really good for news, Louie. You would like it. Let me ask you a question. One of the things we were just discussing also was this idea of privacy. Twitter’s all out there. You’re all out there with Twitter. Your thoughts on the privacy issue. Are you worried about that? I mean, Casey talked about the things in China, you know, you want these separate kind of things by yourself, you said several times ephemeral, ephemeral, ephemeral.
Louie Swisher: Yeah, I think kind of like how we’ve all become desensitized to hate speech and other forms of talk that would be considered inappropriate. We’ve- at least for me, and the people around me- we’ve become desensitized to our privacy. And I think, you know, having two techie parents, you guys are very concerned about your privacy,and other stuff like that.
But growing up in a social media age where you’re supposed to share as much as you can, or as much as you want to with your public social self on the phone and stuff like that, I frankly don’t really care about … I’ve grown to not really care about like … I will just not put private stuff on there, or put stuff that I don’t really want to share on there. But I think we’ve all just become a little less caring about our privacy.
Where do you think about it, at all?
Louie Swisher: What do you mean?
Do you think about it? Like, where your location is? Do you care about …
Louie Swisher: No, things like SnapMaps and stuff gradually make us care less about our location, ‘cause we just want to share with our friends, but we’re actually just sharing it with Snapchat and all the people that they sell their data to.
Louie Swisher: So, I think a lot of stuff … and also just backhanded, backroom deals of data usage that the public doesn’t really know about. I mean, we’ve heard of it, but we don’t really know …
Are you outraged by this?
Louie Swisher: I mean, you can think about it … Yeah, when you break it down, I do get outraged.
You’re the product in a way, in case you’re interested.
Louie Swisher: At the base level, I think people care a lot less about their privacy …
Would you like to be paid for your location and your information?
Louie Swisher: That’d be nice. Maybe I wouldn’t have to get a summer job.
Okay, just wander around and be social. You know, it’s interesting about your location. That’s how I found you at a party you said you weren’t at. That was great. Your brother helped me.
Louie Swisher: No, that’s not true. I just wasn’t picking up my phone.
No, I saw you on SnapNaps.
Louie Swisher: SnapMaps. That just emphasizes your out-of-touchness.
I had your brother do it and what we did is you were shadowing, ghosting yourself? What is it called?
Louie Swisher: Never mind, no. You don’t need to dive into this.
I’m just telling you we found your friends and then we knew where you were.
Louie Swisher: Except I wasn’t hiding from you.
I know, but I didn’t know where you were.
Louie Swisher: I just wasn’t picking up my phone because I wasn’t on it.
I understand, but I was able to locate you and felt very good about that.
Louie Swisher: You must have felt very proud in that moment.
I was, I found you.
Casey Newton: It’s a good Gen Z detective story.
Gen Z, you’re Gen Z. That’s right.
So, what do you think about privacy right now?
Casey Newton: I don’t necessarily think of it in terms of privacy, but the writer Ben Thompson has this idea of data refineries, and Google and Facebook, he says, are data refineries.
Refineries, like they are oil companies.
Casey Newton: Exactly, so you give them your data and then they turn it into this very valuable thing and then they monetize it in various ways. And the point that a lot of people are making is we don’t really have a good sense of how much our data is worth, right? We don’t know how much it’s worth after it goes through that refinery.
So, we’re recording this in Washington, D.C., I was on Capitol Hill this week …
You were wearing a tie, I noticed.
Casey Newton: I was wearing a tie. Everyone was telling me how great I looked.
Louie Swisher: Very spiffy.
Casey Newton: Thank you. See, again, everyone is weighing in on this. But, anyway, what congressional staffers were telling me was they want to get a better sense of how much that data is worth. And maybe if we had a better sense how much … not just how much these companies were making off us in the sense of average revenue per user, but to the extent of what are we giving away and what is the lifetime value of that.
Yeah, Louie’s worth $75.
Casey Newton: Yeah.
Or whatever, don’t make a face.
Louie Swisher: I didn’t really understand what you just said.
Casey Newton: I’m worth a $1.50, you know.
Years ago, Steve Case did this. He was saying we’re making $150 off of every user. This was 100 years ago. This is how much they monetized you. And I put up my hand and I’m like, “Where’s my $75?” And he’s, “Haha, sit down, Kara.” And I was, “Really, where is it? Why don’t I get part of it?” Well, that’s sort of like selling your liver, I guess. Right?
Casey Newton: Well, there was a social network called Steem and they released crypto tokens, and the idea was that everyone who participated would sort of earn crypto money for participating. And if you had a really popular post, you’d get paid a bunch more money. It was a worthwhile experiment. They announced this week that they’re pretty much shutting down and it really didn’t work out.
It does. It can get ugly, the things you can do.
Casey Newton: Yeah, it’s not a great business.
Right. When we get back, we’re going to talk about gadgets and things like that. We’re here with Louie Swisher, my son, and Casey Newton, not my son, from The Verge.
Louie Swisher: You wish he was.
Oh, I do in a lot of ways.
Okay, we’re here with Louie Swisher in the final section of our lovely 300th podcast of Kara Swisher’s Recode Decode. Thank you very much.
I agree. I deserve the kudos. Stop that. Now, you’re making fun of me. You two are really bad.
Louie Swisher: Nice little golf clap for you.
What’s a golf clap?
Casey Newton: Just a really light…
I’d like a cheer.
Casey Newton: Huzzah!
Casey Newton: All right.
Anyway, I am fantastic. Everybody knows that. Louie, you’re fully aware you have the most fantastic mother ever. I just want to underscore that to you right now.
Louie Swisher: That’s how she wakes me up in the morning. “I’m fantastic!”
I do. I did that to your brother this morning. I go, “You’re welcome, mom! You’re the best mom!” And he rolled his eyes in rather dramatic fashion at me.
All right, I want to talk about gadgets and games and things like that. Louie, what gadgets are you using? You have your weird little speakers, right?
Louie Swisher: Honestly, the only gadgets I’m using are my phone and my headphones and my speakers and my Xbox. I feel like five or seven years ago there was kind of a gadget revolution and all these tech gadgets were coming out and once they all came out, people realized which ones they liked, which ones were useful, and they settled with what they liked to use. And I feel nowadays I have way less gadgets than I did then. Because also you were going to all these promotional things and you’d come home with all these free gadgets, and I’d try them out and show them to my friends.
I think now, honestly, my tech products are pretty simple and a small amount.
Might say the phone, period.
Louie Swisher: Phone, of course. Computer for schoolwork and stuff, headphones, speakers and earbuds. That’s about it.
Casey Newton: What headphones are you using and are they wireless?
Louie Swisher: Yes. I am using the Beats Solo wireless. Please sponsor me.
I’ll call them.
Louie Swisher: They’re a really good set of headphones.
Why do you like them? Because they’re not too much.
Louie Swisher: They’re comfy.
They’re comfy, yeah. So, you use those completely. That’s all you use, nothing else.
Louie Swisher: Yeah, I just pretty much use those and my earbuds.
All right, if had to give up your phone, your computer or your game player, which one would you give up? Stack-rank them.
Louie Swisher: I feel like phone is definitely top tier, then computer … Actually, maybe, the computer’s a lot more versatile. If I lost my phone or I didn’t have a phone, I feel like I could find a lot of ways to use my computer to replace it. I can text because it’s an Apple computer.
But your phone is the critical element.
Louie Swisher: I think, yeah, phone is pretty critical, but I do like my computer a lot. I think I’d give up the Xbox, but I really do like the Xbox.
All right, we’re gonna talk about that in a minute. Casey? Your thoughts on your gadgets, anything cool? And, by the way, Louie has speakers. What speakers do you have … Ultra, Ultimate?
Louie Swisher: It’s Ultimate Ears Boom 2.
You have several of them.
Louie Swisher: I have one of them and Alex has one.
Oh, you’re right. Okay, you steal it from him.
Casey Newton: That’s why I like portable Bluetooth speaker things. Yeah, I’m also not a huge gadget head. I have the iPhone X. This is the first year in five years that I didn’t just go buy the new iPhone …
I didn’t either!
Casey Newton: because it seemed like there was just no real benefit to upgrading.
Louie Swisher: I need a new phone. I’ve had the same phone for two years and it’s starting to break down.
We’re getting it on Monday, but go ahead.
Casey Newton: My most recent gadget purchase that I do love is the new iPad Pro. I had been waiting for the iPad that had FaceID. I use it mostly as just a kind of TV, but I’ll also check my email and read tweets. But, yeah, that thing is fantastic.
I have one and I haven’t used it at all.
Casey Newton: Oh, really?
Louie Swisher: I have not even looked at an iPad in…
Casey Newton: I talk to so many people and they are, “I never use my iPad for anything,” and I don’t get it because it is the best thing for watching Netflix …
Louie Swisher: Why not on your computer?
Casey Newton: Well, I can’t download episodes of anything to watch on my computer, so if I’m taking a long flight …
Louie Swisher: Yeah you can, on iTunes.
Casey Newton: Yeah, you’re right. I could pay for it, but what if want to watch a season of Netflix shows? Like, I take a long flight. On my way here, I was planning on getting all this work done and then United Wi-Fi just didn’t work for the entire cross-country flight. And so, you know, I had a bunch of episodes of a TV show downloaded on Netflix and I just watched on my iPad.
Louie Swisher: What show?
Casey Newton: It’s called “Schitt’s Creek.”
Louie Swisher: Oh!
Casey Newton: Which I’m not sure if we’re allowed to say that.
That’s all right. You can say it.
Louie Swisher: You’ll get a pass.
Casey Newton: But it’s created by Eugene Levy and also stars Catherine O’Hara.
Casey Newton: It is one of the funniest TV shows I have ever seen, and they’re coming to San Francisco in January and I have a ticket to see them.
As in up. Is it “Up Schitt’s Creek”?
Casey Newton: Exactly. Oh my gosh, it’s so funny.
Yeah, okay. All right, so you use that and then you use your phone, obviously.
Casey Newton: Yep, use my phone.
I find myself not using my computer all day now. I do so much stuff on the phone.
Casey Newton: Really?
100 percent. Just writing, that’s it. Just writing.
Casey Newton: Yeah, I don’t know. I put together my newsletter on the computer. The computer is still super useful to me.
Louie Swisher: Your job is text, tweet, write. That’s kind of your job, so you could do most of that from your phone.
And chatting here …
Louie Swisher: Talking.
I have a television show, which you also don’t watch. But that’s okay.
Louie Swisher: Nope. Honestly, I’ve been wondering why we still pay for cable.
Louie Swisher: There’s no need. Why do we pay for cable?
Well, I don’t know.
Louie Swisher: Do you watch cable?
No, but I didn’t buy all the package this time in Washington.
Louie Swisher: That is true.
I didn’t buy it. I just have the regular one.
Louie Swisher: You just watch the news, but that’s about it.
I watch the news. I watch cable news.
Louie Swisher: I stopped watching news a while ago.
Yeah, you don’t watch anything on TV. What do you watch on that TV of yours? Why did I buy you one?
Louie Swisher: Because I like to play video games on it.
Video games. All right, we’re gonna get to that in a minute.
Louie Swisher: It’s more of a monitor than a TV.
It’s a monitor. That’s exactly it. Years ago, Jason Kilar, who started Hulu … I had a little event at Sundance and I invited, this was when they just started, and I invited him; Reed Hastings, who had just started Netflix; and the third person was Chad Hurley, who had just started YouTube.
And we were in a basement and it was full, but I was, “These guys are going to change everything” and all the Hollywood people are like, “No they’re not.” It was like they were so uninterested in them. I’m like, “I have assembled, this is the future!” And they were, like, “No.”
Louie Swisher: I remember I met the CEO of Netflix once at your conference. The only thing I said to him was, “You need to put more programs on Netflix. It’s quite boring.”
Oh! And he did.
Louie Swisher: And he did!
Casey Newton: Now, he’s massively in debt because of you, but he did.
Yes, he is.
Louie Swisher: Exactly.
You’re right. It was too much …
Louie Swisher: I think I might take credit for that inspiration.
Okay, I will ask him because he’s hopefully coming back to Code this year. You can ask him yourself if you’re there. Actually, you’re not gonna be there…
So, let’s get to games. Let’s finish up talking about games. And so, you’re a big game player.
Casey Newton: I love to play video games, yeah.
I know you do. I see the glow. There’s no other lights on…
Louie Swisher: Yeah, I’m just in the kitchen cooking and I’ll look over and there’s just a glowing screen. Casey’s just staring at this TV with this concentration I’ve never seen before. And I love it. I love it. I love it.
Casey Newton: It’s great. It’s a fun way to blow off steam. Also, video games now are great at telling stories and I love stories, so it’s fun to play.
Louie Swisher: Yes, definitely.
Okay, so tell me what you like and then, Louie, tell me…
Casey Newton: So, the game I’ve been playing most recently is just called “Spider-Man” and it’s exactly what you think.
Louie Swisher: It is great. It’s fantastic.
Casey Newton: You play Spider-Man, you swing all around the world. It’s amazing. I love it so much.
Why do you love it so much?
Casey Newton: Well, it sort of gives you the feeling of being Spider-Man because anything in the world you can just sort of swing from. So, you just sling your webs and you fly all over the world and then you run into bad guys and you punch them in the mouth and then you tie them up with your webs.
Louie Swisher: But you don’t kill them. You’re a friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.
Casey Newton: Friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, so it is not as violent as it sounds.
Okay, so you just swing around.
Louie Swisher: Alex has it. It’s a really good game. Graphically, it’s beautiful.
Casey Newton: It’s really beautiful.
So, what’s the story behind it?
Casey Newton: I mean, the story is that Peter is working with a doctor who turns out to be Dr. Octopus, spoiler alert. So, he’s gotta take care of that.
Okay, I see. And why do you like it, Louie?
Louie Swisher: I haven’t really played it. I just played it once or twice, but it’s a really beautiful game and I wish I could play it more. But, Alex has the PS4 in his room.
Okay, did you ask for that for Christmas?
Louie Swisher: No, that was him.
What did you ask for?
Louie Swisher: I am a steady Xbox fan.
Why is that?
Louie Swisher: I don’t know. I’ve just been using an Xbox for a while. All my friends have Xboxes.
And you talk to each other on them, right?
Louie Swisher: Yeah, sometimes.
Alex does that all the time. He was talking to someone.
Louie Swisher: Yeah, I like playing single-player games more, like “Assassin’s Creed” and the new “Red Dead Redemption,” which is really good.
Why is that good?
Louie Swisher: It’s an incredible game.
Should I be letting you watch that?
Louie Swisher: Yeah, it’s fine.
Casey Newton: It’s a western!
Louie Swisher: Yeah, it’s a prequel to the original “Red Dead,” which came out a couple years ago, in 2010, I think.
Casey Newton: Yeah, a long time ago.
Louie Swisher: It’s about, you know, doing western stuff, like robbing trains and, I don’t know.
Casey Newton: Robbing other people, shooting people.
Louie Swisher: Exactly, I haven’t dived that much into the 60 hours of shit you can do.
Casey Newton: It’s a huge game.
Louie Swisher: But, I’m a huge fan of it and I plan on spending some time this weekend playing it.
All right, excellent. What’s the other one you just mentioned?
Louie Swisher: “Assassin’s Creed,” which I really like.
That’s the guy with the cloak, right?
Louie Swisher: Yeah, I’ve just been a huge fan of that since “Black Flag” came out, which was a really good game. And I think they’ve just gotten better since.
Why is that?
Louie Swisher: Except for some dips, with Unity and Syndicate.
Casey Newton: But, you know, if you’ve never played these games, they’re all historical fiction and so each one takes place during a different historical time and as you play the game and murder bad people …
Louie Swisher: Or good people, depending on how you’re feeling.
Casey Newton: You learn about the history of ancient Egypt or ancient Greece.
Louie Swisher: And you can interact with historical figures. Most recently, I just did a mission with Plato and all these Greek philosophers, which I think is really interesting.
Casey Newton: This is how teens are learning their history. They’re murdering people, but then also learning about Plato.
Murdering people with Plato.
Casey Newton: Murder people with Plato.
I’m disturbed and intrigued at the same time.
Louie Swisher: And maybe sometimes murdering people for him.
Casey Newton: Murdering for Plato, yeah. Plato had a lot of blood on his hands.
Give me a Plato quote, please? Anybody?
Louie Swisher: I can’t.
Okay, because he doesn’t say any.
Louie Swisher: Actually, “Kill him.”
Casey Newton: As Plato famously said in “Assassin’s Creed”: “Kill him!”
Okay, so what are you looking forward to in the games sector for this Christmas?
Casey Newton: In the games sector, I would say all the big games are out for this year. “Red Dead” is the one that just came out and everybody loves single-player games, like Louie’s playing that one, so that’s probably the one that I’m gonna do next.
I’m also thinking about upgrading my console, though, because I have a PlayStation 4, but there is now a PlayStation 4 Pro that has better graphics. By the way, I just bought a new TV, so that’s going to be coming to the house. And it has better capabilities.
You don’t got a couch yet, but I won’t …
Casey Newton: I know, I’ve got plans. It’s all happening now. Anyway, that’s what I’m looking forward to.
That’s what you’re looking forward to. What about you, Louie? What did you want to ask me for, from Santa?
Louie Swisher: Santa, that old man. I think I kind of rediscovered my love for the Wii. I played at a friend’s house recently and it was just so damn fun.
What were you playing?
Louie Swisher: I played “Wii Sports Resort,” the greatest game of all time, and I did the one mini game where you have a sword, but it’s not really a sword. It’s like a foam rod and you can run around and hit people and make sure they don’t hit you. I mean, you can’t really run around …
Louie Swisher: No, you stand there swinging your arms with an Wiimote in your hands.
Oh, right. You used to have that. You had a tennis racket.
Louie Swisher: Yeah, I spent hours on that and I was really good and I’m still really good. I will take any viewer in a challenge and probably win. I don’t think you can play against other people.
Louie Swisher: It’s not Wii Sword. It’s called Showdown on “Wii Sports Resort.”
You want this because you enjoy it and find it delightful?
Louie Swisher: I just want to reconnect with a childhood console that I really enjoyed using. I forgot about it for a while, getting caught up in all these new consoles and new games, but sometimes it’s good to go back to the past.
Yeah, we have it at home somewhere.
Louie Swisher: We should find it.
Casey Newton: I just love the idea that in these times even the 16-year-olds want to return to a simpler time. That’s how messed up we are as a country right now.
Louie Swisher: Exactly.
Well, I’d like to do Pong again.
Casey Newton: Sure, why not?
Pong was not interesting, even at the time. Do you remember “Pong?”
Casey Newton: Of course.
Louie Swisher: Boop.
Louie Swisher: Boop.
Louie Swisher: Boop.
Casey Newton: Yeah, I’ve dabbled.
You dabbled in “Pong?”
Casey Newton: Everyone goes through a “Pong” phase.
I liked “Space Invaders.”
Casey Newton: Oh, “Space Invaders” was good. What about “Pac-Man?” Were you a “Pac-Man” person?
No, it made me nervous. It made me anxious. All video games make me anxious. I’ve tried to play them and it’s like country line dancing with me. I cannot do it.
Casey Newton: Do you have a game on your phone? Do you play any phone games?
Louie Swisher: No, she has this app with a bunch of death quotes. I think that’s more of a game for her. Every day, “You’re gonna die, deal with it.” And she loves it.
I do. I love that. It’s called
Casey Newton: What’s the quote today?
Louie Swisher: A fitting name.
It’s called WeCroak and it has a little frog and the whole point is … Let me read it from the thing. “In Bhutan, they say contemplating death five times a day brings happiness,” and it does! I love my WeCroak. It’s the best thing. And so, it’s 99 cents and I’ve gotten so much out of it. I put the quotes up on Twitter. Today is Frank Ostaseski …
Louie Swisher: By the time she reads that name, she might be dead.
”Our avoidance instinct is also due to the fact that our culture has decided that suffering has no value.”
Casey Newton: Oh.
Do you like that? That’s a good one.
Casey Newton: Sure.
C’mon. Plato said that. Here’s another one. This is a good one, James Hillman: “To feel something thoroughly does not mean it to be thoroughly. It is a mistake, a big, bad mistake to take feelings utterly literally.” I think that’s a good one.
And I’m gonna read two more, one that I put up and I was referring to Trump completely because he annoyed me with something to say.
Louie Swisher: Oh, he annoyed me today.
Oh, this is … hold on.
Louie Swisher: Oh, man.
Shush up, you. Hush. Oh, here we go, Boethius — the guy who wrote the philosophy book, whatever, “The Consolation of Philosophy” — “It’s because you don’t know the end and purpose of things that you think the wicked and criminal have power and happiness.” I felt better about that.
And then, lastly, I’m gonna read one more, which I thought was just really funny, by Richard Siken: “I don’t really blame you for being dead, but you can’t have your sweater back.”
Casey Newton: Can’t have your sweater back.
I know. That was brilliant. I’m thrilled with it. It makes me happy. It’s my little game.
Casey Newton: I love that.
I don’t play any games on my phone. No, I don’t even play cards. My mom plays Solitaire all the time.
Louie Swisher: Oh, she loves that game. She likes Churchill, too.
Louie Swisher: Churchill’s a card game that he invented, I think, during the Second World War.
Okay, well, she plays card games on it, but I don’t play. She’s always playing those games.
Louie Swisher: She’s always playing card games. She’s coming in town this weekend. I cannot wait to see her.
I know, yeah. She uses her phone all the time.
Louie Swisher: Oh yeah, she really does.
She really does and she talks to it. She goes, “Google!”
Louie Swisher: Yeah, she doesn’t type. She yells.
She yells at the phone.
Louie Swisher: And you can always just hear her fingernails against the screen. I’m, like, “Lulu, you have to use your fingers.” She goes, “I am!” And she smashes her fingernail on it.
She does. She whacks at it. And she uses it for news. She reads the New York Post.
Louie Swisher: We love her, though.
We love her, but she uses the phone quite a bit.
All right, I want to finish up with predictions. I’d like some prediction or something you’d like invented, something you think would be pretty cool, and something you would like to go away. Casey, you’re up.
Casey Newton: Well, I would reiterate my prediction from earlier, which is that 2019 is going to be about the smaller social networks. It’s gonna be about the group chat. It’s gonna be about getting away from these big broadcast social networks and into spaces that are more tightly controlled, so that is my big prediction for 2019.
And what would you like to go away?
Casey Newton: There’s a thing in Instagram that shows you how many people saw your story and I hate it.
Louie Swisher: Snapchat has that.
Casey Newton: You’ll post your story and it’ll be like, “800 people saw your story.” And I hate it because it just makes me feel like I’m being creeped on, right? Because most of those people, they don’t send messages or anything.
Casey Newton: So, I just wish that would go. I don’t need to know how many people saw my Story.
Right. All right, okay. Good. That’s a good one. Louie?
Louie Swisher: Could you repeat the question?
What’s your prediction for something this year in tech?
Louie Swisher: I think I agree with Casey, but I also think like, me returning to my Wii, we will all return to the simpler times and hopefully all these big companies and stuff with their mega apps will return to their truer forms and what they were at a simpler time.
That’s well said. I’m gonna get my carrier pigeon back. It’s gonna be great and we’ll be getting along really well. The cat will eat it, but that’s … nonetheless. And what do you think has to go away?
Louie Swisher: Facebook. No, I’m just kidding.
You can say that.
Louie Swisher: I actually don’t know.
Louie Swisher: I don’t know. I can’t think of anything right now.
All right, Swisher, that was great. Casey, thank you.
Casey Newton: My pleasure.
Louie Swisher: Thank you for having me.
You guys are really charming. I have to say, you are a charming pair.
Louie Swisher: We’re a dynamic duo.
And I’ll see you more in my kitchen coming up soon. Anyway, this is what happens in our house all the time. Anyway, thank you all for listening.