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I’m : a programmer, writer, podcaster, geek, and coffee enthusiast.


It’s considered “safe” to tell people about your pregnancy after 12 weeks, since the chances of a miscarriage after that point are extremely low. This protects you from many painful, awkward, tragic conversations if you tell everyone, have a miscarriage, then need to tell them all the bad news over the next few months as they ask how the pregnancy is going. Each one of those conversations can be incredibly emotionally taxing.

That, and writing being my preferred method of coping with my feelings, is why I’m telling you in a blog post that we lost our 21-week pregnancy. We live our lives in public. Thousands of people knew we were pregnant; I can’t bear thousands of tragic conversations.

There were earlier warning signs, but there was always the chance that they wouldn’t matter. A critically low PAPP-A only weakly correlates to negative outcomes; the difficulty locating in every ultrasound could all have been unlucky positioning; the low movement could have just been a mellow personality.

In retrospect, we were let down gently, but it was still a shock to hear three specialists in the span of a few hours tell us that there was poor placental function and bloodflow, poor development, no amniotic fluid at all, and no realistic chance of survivial, mostly due to the inability for lungs to develop.

We didn’t have a choice whether to end the pregnancy — we could only choose whether to end it under our control or wait for nature to take its inevitable course to a stillbirth, which would have been far worse, physically and emotionally, and much more risky. On every specialist’s recommendation, we chose a dilation and evacuation to maximize Tiff’s safety and our chances of a successful pregnancy next time. We’ve always been pro-choice, but this wasn’t really a choice.

I’m not sure which is worse: quietly coping with an early miscarriage alone, since nobody talks about them, or having to tell everyone about a later loss like this. I suppose we’ll find out — we had a 5-week miscarriage last winter, and it was comforting to read the few other stories that brave people had shared. If sharing this can comfort a random Google searcher someday in even the smallest way, it’s worth it. Maybe this is our brick.

As horrible as this has been, we’ve had great care through it. Everyone has been compassionate, helpful, and gentle.

We’re extremely fortunate to have one kid already — that’s infinitely more than a lot of people get, and I never forget that. And he’s awesome, which is even luckier.

We’re going to regroup and are planning to try again when we can. Thank you for your support.

Why podcasts are suddenly “back”

Did you hear? Podcasts were dead, and now they’re back!

This story is suddenly everywhere. It’s not extremely accurate, but I’ll take it.

*    *    *

In early 2013, a New York Times reporter contacted me to ask about the town I live in, Hastings on Hudson, a small suburb about 10 miles north of Manhattan.

We had a long phone call, about an hour, but it was strange from the outset. He kept asking if I had seen a trend of lots of hipsters moving up from Brooklyn to Hastings, and I kept telling him that I had seen absolutely no evidence of such a trend.

He kept pushing, wanting so badly for that story to be there, but it wasn’t. He thought Hastings was becoming the new Williamsburg or Portland and was digging for evidence to support that, ignoring anything to the contrary. It seemed that a couple of his friends had moved here, or were considering it, so he assumed it was a trend, and wasn’t interested in my statements to the contrary as someone who actually lives here.

Almost every time I’ve talked to a reporter has gone this way: they had already decided the narrative beforehand. I’m never being asked for information — I’m being used for quotes to back up their predetermined story, regardless of whether it’s true. (Consider this when you read the news.) Misquotes usually aren’t mistakes — they’re edited, consciously or not, to say what the reporter needs them to say.

Talking to reporters is like talking to the police: ideally, don’t. You have little to gain and a lot to lose, their incentives often conflict with yours, and they have all of the power.1

The New York Times story about my town ran with the ridiculous headline, Creating Hipsturbia.

I didn’t even recognize the description, filled with exaggerations and outright falsehoods, as my town. The hipster caricatures were exaggerated at best. Nowhere in town serves shade-grown coffee and I’ve never seen a novelist with sideburns drinking it. The bird silhouettes on the bakery window, easily verifiable, have never existed and were completely fabricated. The reporter used none of the information from our hour-long phone call except a fluffy quote about deer in my yard,2 since the rest of it contradicted his narrative.

I don’t know anyone in Hastings who read that article and didn’t find it comically inaccurate. Wherever this allegedly booming hipster paradise was, it sure wasn’t in Hastings.

But feature articles about hipsters in the Sunday print and online editions of the New York Times reach a lot of people.

And a crazy thing happened over the last year. A larger-than-usual number of young families from the city have been moving here. Hastings real estate is unusually hot, with prices significantly up for the year and many houses being sold in only a few days, often with multiple bidders pushing them above the asking price. Two realtor friends have told us that a lot of this new interest came from that article.

The article, which was mostly bullshit, is slowly making itself more true. And our town is doing very well from it.

*    *    *

The story of podcasts suddenly being “back” strongly suggests, and mostly requires, that they had been big at one time and had since gone away. That New York Magazine article even cites a “bottom” time: 2010. But that never really happened.

Podcasts in 2010 were a lot like podcasts in 2007, which were a lot like podcasts in 2004, which are a lot like podcasts in 2014. There’s a lot of tech shows (and a lot of tech listeners), but most of the biggest are professionally produced public-radio shows released as podcasts, with other strong contingents in comedy, business, and religion, followed by a huge long tail of special interests with small but passionate audiences.

What’s apparent from most of the recent podcast stories is that most of their reporters have talked to very few sources and either don’t listen to podcasts themselves or have just started. Most podcast listeners and producers know that the truth is much less interesting: podcasts started out as a niche interest almost a decade ago and have been growing slowly and steadily since. Over many years, growing slowly and steadily adds up.

Smartphone podcast apps and Bluetooth audio in cars have both helped substantially, but both have also been slow, steady progressions that are nowhere near complete. No smartphone app has caused a massive number of new listeners to suddenly flood to podcasts, and people don’t upgrade their cars frequently enough for any automotive media features to cause market booms. A lot of people still listen to podcasts in iTunes, and a lot of cars still don’t have Bluetooth audio. We’ll get there, but it takes a while.

The most likely explanation of these “Podcasts are back!” stories is threefold:

  1. Serial, an offshoot of This American Life, got a ton of listeners quickly. But This American Life has been the biggest podcast in the world for most of the last decade, so a heavily promoted offshoot becoming very popular doesn’t indicate much about the market as a whole.
  2. Gimlet Media, a podcast production startup, just raised a bunch of money from investors,3 publicized by their very popular StartUp podcast. StartUp became popular quickly not only because it’s very good, but also because it was started by a very well-known producer of very popular podcasts, including This American Life and Planet Money. Again, not a strong indicator of the overall market.
  3. Midroll, a big podcast ad broker, talks to the press a lot and has grown well recently. Selling podcast ads is a pain in the ass, producers love the idea of someone else taking care of it, there are very few ad brokers, and Midroll is probably the biggest. But that doesn’t mean there are suddenly far more listeners — it’s just easier to put ads in shows.4

The money and raw numbers have finally gotten investors to pay attention, and investors have a lot of press influence. But podcasts have never exploded and have never died. The truth is that they’ve grown boringly and steadily for almost a decade, and will likely continue to do so. And that’s great!

But what if the hype around these stories builds on itself and starts making itself true, like that terrible profile of my town? Then podcast growth actually might explode.

And that’s even better.

  1. I almost behaved wisely in September when I was interviewed by a WSJ writer, allegedly about people who choose to work at home and what working at home is like in our tech community. I thought appearing in the WSJ may have passing value to Overcast, so I agreed to talk.

    But after a long phone call about working at home and the indie Apple business, the reporter kept requesting photos of my office, possessions, and the rest of my house, and kept asking probing questions about the house’s size and layout. I realized that this had nothing to do with actual work, so I bailed out. That turned out to be the right decision. But ideally, I wouldn’t have even taken the first call. 

  2. Even my “quote” isn’t exactly what I said, but it was close and harmless enough that it wasn’t worth the risk of a correction when they fact-checked it with me. I can’t see the George Washington Bridge from my house, but I could in a previous apartment. 

  3. Including me. 

  4. Midroll previously sold our podcast’s ads. If you’ve recently heard a bunch of podcast hosts asking you to take a demographic advertising survey for a chance to win a $100 Amazon gift card, those are Midroll shows — and a big reason we’re not anymore. 

That Android-first developer “trend”

For some bewildering reason that’s likely a reflection of society’s bankrupt standards for journalism, a lot of people read Business Insider.

Whenever one of my products or I am mentioned in it, I get more people coming out of the woodwork and telling me they saw it than from any other press coverage — usually via Facebook, a website that assumes I’d like to read an algorithmically profitable subset of the random writings of people whose random writings society expects that I should care about, but I don’t.

Anyway, somebody wrote this on, a domain name on the internet, and the aforementioned people are woodworking about it despite it having no relation to me:

Facebook Is Seeing More And More App Developers Go Android-First

Facebook is seeing a trend in Europe of app developers going “Android-first.”

The first line of the article has already proven the headline to be misleading. And those who find the rest of the article between all of the other garbage on the page1 may notice that the headline actually doesn’t reflect the real story at all. This is the bulk of the actual information being reported:

But Codorniou told us Facebook has a team of evangelists encouraging Android developers to use Facebook as a way to build and promote their apps: “As of today, I have four guys from my team in Paris talking to Android developers about the greatness of Parse, Facebook login, app links, app events. It’s a very important bet for us.”

“There is a pattern coming from Eastern Europe. The Russian developers develop on Android first because of a big audience, and it maybe being easier to develop. They liked the fact that they could submit a new version of the app every day. This is a trend that I see and I think it is going to accelerate.”

In other words, the staff members at Facebook tasked with promoting Facebook to Android developers have, unsurprisingly, been talking to Android developers. And it turns out that many Android developers prefer to develop for Android first.

If there’s actually a trend toward Android-first, this story isn’t showing any evidence of it.

The likely truth is that there is no noticeably shifting trend of developers choosing Android first because of its market share, or choosing iOS first because of its profit share, because that’s not how developers choose. Most developers with the authority to choose their platform will choose whichever one they use and like best.

If there was really a shift occurring toward Android-first, a significant number of iOS developers would be switching teams, developing for Android first and probably switching to Android as their carry OS. But of every iOS developer I know — and I know a lot — only one is choosing that path.

And the number of successful startups that launch on Android exclusively, or even first, remains far smaller than the number that start on iOS first.2

Maybe someday this will change, but it would require far more talented mobile developers and startup founders to switch to Android themselves. Find that story first, and the apps will follow.

  1. At the time of writing, these distractions include an ad for denture glue, a newsletter sign-up solicitation, a Facebook sharing solicitation, a LinkedIn sharing solicitation, a Twitter sharing solicitation, a Google+ sharing solicitation, a “Print” solicitation despite most web browsers including a print feature, an email sharing solicitation, a huge ad for Dropbox, clipart stolen from Flickr, a Facebook stock ticker, a generic stock ticker labeled “Your Money” that doesn’t actually represent my money as far as I can tell, banners for articles including “A ‘Sexist’ Ad From UK Newspaper The Sun Offering A Date With A Topless Model Has Been Banned” (with a photo of five women wearing bikinis and promoting unattainable body images), “The 6 Types Of Killers Who Use Facebook To Connect With Their Victims”, “Here’s What Happens When You Eat Olive Garden For 7 Weeks Straight”, “6 Scientifically Proven Things Men Can Do To Be More Attractive”, “Scientists Have Figured Out What Makes Women Attractive”, “How To Get A Dancer’s Body”, “Women Are Going Crazy Over These No-Underwear Yoga Pants”, a repeated sharing-solicitation bar at the bottom of the article with every aforementioned option except the already redundant “Print”, links and banners to 31 (!) more garbage articles, and Tynt to taint your copy-and-pasted text. 

  2. I know of zero. I’m sure it’s not that bad, but I bet it’s not great. 

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