Instant Message on Smash Notes

Instant Message podcast.

February 01, 2020

Feel overwhelmed by the never-ending waves of technology news? Let The Wall Street Journal's technology columnists help. Join David Pierce, Joanna Stern and Christopher Mims every Friday as they talk about the most important tech trends -- and why you should care.



Recently updated notes

Following Mark Zuckerberg's big encryption pivot for Facebook, David, Joanna and Christopher unpack the privacy talk. Reporter Katie Bindley comes in to share her own stories of Facebook's creepy ad behavior, then David interviews Frank Yang, CEO of Simplehuman, about why talking trashcans are people too. The Weekly Upgrade: Christopher solves your ducking autocorrect problem.

Updated on June 19

Key points in this episode

Our Amazon beat reporter, Laura Stevens, joins David, Joanna and Christopher to talk about the retail giant's future-headquarters reality show, but not before the gang explains the difference between a MacBook Air and an iPad Pro. Finally, GoPro CEO Nick Woodman stops by to talk about corporate challenges, smartphone cameras and parenting.

Key points in this episode

David, Joanna and Christopher confess their bad device habits, and share their homespun remedies. Then reporter Deepa Seetharaman joins in to explain the turmoil at Facebook Inc. on the eve of the midterms. Finally, David gazes into our future with the Google executives who run the internet giant's augmented and virtual reality program.

Key points in this episode

In our first episode, David, Joanna and Christopher debate the best iPhones (and Android options) then pull in a special guest to talk about food-delivery drones. To wrap up the show, David catches up with James Dyson to find out why he's refocusing his vacuum empire to address environmental concerns. "I'm not a petrol head," he says.

Key points in this episode

Coming this fall: The Wall Street Journal is offering a fresh way to look at technology. Join columnists David Pierce, Joanna Stern and Christopher Mims each week as they debate what you really need to know.

Key points in this episode

In a special encore presentation, a look back at the WSJ Future of Everything Festival, the three-day event filled with speakers, panels and demos showing us where the world is going-for better or worse. Lots of Hyperloop, self-driving vehicles, AR and VR, good AI, bad AI... all the AI, really. So now Joanna and David present a few of their favorite moments from the festival: a chat with Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, a performance from Imogen Heap and a rousing debate about whether the tools that make us "more productive" are actually good for us.

Key points in this episode

David and Joanna discuss the new Samsung Galaxy Note 10, the phone for people who get stuff done. (Stuff. Not other words.) It has a new stylus and some new software and a bunch of new cameras. Later, WSJ reporter Liz Hoffman comes in to talk about the new Apple Card, which David has been using to recklessly spend money all week. Is this the future of how we spend money? In this week's Today I Learned, David plans his wedding... at a Taco Bell. And wonders what the phrase "sauce bouquet" could possibly mean. Last, David interviews Dave Asprey, the founder of Bulletproof and the so-called "godfather of biohacking," about how he experiments on his own body and how others can do the same as safely and thoughtfully as possible.

Key points in this episode

David, Joanna and Christopher start by discussing the future of retail, which at least partly involves all those brands you see in Instagram ads suddenly showing up in a store near you. (The gang also learns a new word: "omnichannel.") Next, WSJ reporter RT Watson hops on to discuss Netflix's upcoming slate of blockbuster-hopeful films, and to answer the big question: Why are streaming services so good at TV and so bad at movies? In this week's TIL, Joanna discovers Apple's old Find My Friends app and finds her friends. Too many friends. Last, David interviews Wikipedia co-founder Larry Sanger about his "Declaration of Digital Independence" and the future of social media.

Links:

Christopher's retail column: https://www.wsj.com/articles/can-the-internet-save-the-department-store-11564200060
RT Watson on Netflix's movie binge: https://www.wsj.com/articles/netflix-splurges-on-big-budget-movies-11564417323
Larry Sanger's Declaration of Digital Independence: https://larrysanger.org/2019/06/declaration-of-digital-independence/

Key points in this episode

This week, it's all about how to make the internet faster--and how the world changes when we do. David, Joanna and Christopher talk about Joanna's nationwide test of the new 5G network. Later, WSJ's Scott McCartney comes on to talk about the race to make airplane Wi-Fi better. (Though we'd even settle for "less bad.") In this week's Today I Learned, David explains the new tech behind the new "The Lion King." Finally, David interviews Marc Porat, the former CEO of General Magic, the company that tried to invent the smartphone in the '90s. And might have pulled it off, if the company had understood the internet.

Key points in this episode

This week marks the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. Even if you don't care about space travel, there's a good chance the work NASA did to get men on the moon affects your life even now. First, David and Christopher chat with Al Gross, a former NASA engineer who helped design the Apollo spacesuits, then went on to use the materials and techniques to design early versions of the sturdy, super-comfy shoes we all wear now. After that, Jennifer Levasseur, the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum's space history curator, talks about the cameras used on Apollo - and how all the tech required to broadcast a TV show live from the lunar surface may have led to the tiny camera in your smartphone.

Key points in this episode

David and Christopher start the show by discussing a technology that drove decades of innovation: the spreadsheet. Dan Bricklin, creator of VisiCalc - the Lotus and Excel predecessor that was so successful people bought Apple computers just to use it - joins to talk about why number-crunching was such a killer app. Then WSJ reporter Julia Carpenter comes on to talk about family cellphone plans - how they came to be the most popular plans, and why even non-families use them. Finally, David interviews Troy Hunt, creator of Have I Been Pwned, about whether your data is secure (probably not) and what you can do about it (plenty).

Key points in this episode

With Christopher on vacation (again), David and Joanna go through their best tips for surviving the coming July 4th travel craziness. They each bring their best gadget, app, and tip for getting where you're going a little more easily. Later, WSJ reporter Tripp Mickle joins to talk about the departure of legendary Apple designer Jony Ive-and what it means for Apple, and the Apple products you use, going forward. On this week's Today I Learned, the gang rediscovers Tumblr thanks to an online brawl between Taylor Swift and Scooter Braun. Finally, David interviews Andrew Blum, author of "The Weather Machine," about the global system for understanding and predicting the weather. And maybe, someday, hopefully, controlling the weather as well.

Key points in this episode

David, Joanna and Christopher unpack the coming fight between tech companies and regulators, and get into the messy meaning of an important term in the antitrust world: "consumer harm." Next, Katie Bindley joins to talk about how she discovered millions of fake listings on Google Maps-and why that's such a big problem for people looking for plumbers, electricians and urgent care centers. On this week's Today I Learned, Joanna replaces your driver's license. Or it is driver license? Drivers' license? Finally, David talks with Peter Jensen, Moleskine's head of digital, about the future of paper notebooks in an increasingly screen-based world.

Key points in this episode

Joanna and David didn't want to talk about Facebook, but they had to: Facebook launched a new digital currency, Libra, that could upend the way we pay for things. With the help of WSJ reporter AnnaMaria Andriotis, Joanna and David pick apart what that means for normal people. Next they chat with WSJ reporter Sarah Needleman, who recently wrote a profile of Tim Sweeney, chief executive at Epic Games, the company that created "Fortnite" and changed gaming forever. In this week's Today I Learned, David explains the strange world of waterproofing standards. Last, David interviews Kyle Wiens, the CEO of iFixit, about the so-called "Right to Repair" movement, and why there's a war over who gets to fix your gadgets.

Key points in this episode

This week, WSJ broke news of internal Facebook Inc. emails that suggested the company lacked urgency to stop data leaks. With David out in Hong Kong at the Journal's Asia tech conference, Joanna and Christopher take you down Memory Lane with some of WSJ's reporters. After catching up on the news, they revisit a chat with Sam Schechner, who broke a story about how much information app makers share with Facebook-without telling you. Then they go back to a talk with Katie Bindley, who downloaded a pregnancy app then found herself targeted by maternity ads on Facebook and Instagram. Finally, they recap Facebook's most recent developer conference, in which the company promised users more privacy-but not privacy from Facebook.

Key points in this episode

Apple's annual developer conference, WWDC, was this week, and there's a lot of news that could impact you come the fall. David, Joanna and Christopher sort out the game-changers from the who-caresers. The hosts also dig into Apple's latest privacy initiatives, and try to decide whether Apple's promises are worth believing. In this week's Today I Learned, Christopher has a story about password hacking and quantum computing. It confuses everybody. Finally, David interviews Fred Chesnais, the CEO of Atari (still a thing!) about what the decades-old brand might have to say about the future of gaming.

Key points in this episode

David and Christopher talk about Amazon's new strategy for winning the smart-home wars. Hint: It involves getting in with property managers and home builders. Next, David and Joanna call WSJ reporter Stu Woo in Beijing to catch up on the U.S. vs. Huawei fight, and what it means for the tech industry as a whole. In this week's TIL: The team wonders whether the iPod Touch might just be the perfect gadget. Except for those bezels. Finally, David interviews Ian Morris, CEO of Bill Gates-backed startup Likewise, about why reviews and recommendations are broken online-and whether anyone can fix them.

Key points in this episode

We have a special episode for you this week. We just finished the WSJ Future of Everything Festival, a three-day event filled with speakers, panels and demos showing us where the world is going-for better or worse. Lots of Hyperloop, self-driving vehicles, AR and VR, good AI, bad AI... all the AI, really. So now Joanna and David present a few of their favorite moments from the festival: a chat with Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, a performance from Imogen Heap and a rousing debate about whether the tools that make us "more productive" are actually good for us.

Key points in this episode

Now that Big Tech's two biggest privacy invaders can't stop talking about privacy, David, Joanna and Christopher won't stop talking about them. Google and Facebook, that is. Next, the team turns to WSJ reporter Asa Fitch to discuss a San Francisco vote that banned the local government from using facial-recognition software. Later on, David interviews O.G. MythBuster Adam Savage about the challenges of being a hardware guy in a software world. But first, David shares his latest cool discovery: a pair of sound-projecting sunglasses from Bose.

Key points in this episode

To ring in the Uber IPO, David, Christopher and Joanna team up with WSJ reporter Eliot Brown to explore the vast scope of the newest publicly traded tech giant. Prior to that, they recap Google's I/O conference, and discuss the power of AI chatbots and competent $400 phones. Joanna teaches the world a new technical term which may or may not be safe for work. And finally WSJ reporter Katie Bindley interviews TED Fellow and researcher Claire Wardle about the very serious global problem of misinformation.

Key points in this episode

David, Christopher and Joanna attempt to explain TikTok, the hottest new thing in social media. It's like Vine meets Snapchat meets Instagram meets Spotify, sort of. Then, WSJ reporter Jeff Horwitz comes on to talk about F8, Facebook's annual developer conference, and what to make of all the company's announcements around privacy, messaging, privacy, groups, privacy and payments. Oh, and privacy. In this week's Today I Learned, David explains why motion sickness can be such a problem for VR-and why it's taking decades to fix. Lastly, a dispatch from the TED conference: Reporter Katie Bindley sits down with actor and entrepreneur Joseph Gordon-Levitt to talk about social media, creativity and what happens when you start making decisions just to get more likes.

Key points in this episode

David, Joanna and Christopher talk about the bizarre non-launch and Joanna's non-review of the Samsung Galaxy Fold, and what it means for the future of foldable phones. Then, WSJ reporter Shalini Ramachandran comes on to talk about her story on how Netflix and other streaming services are putting a serious dent into peoples' sex lives. In this week's Today I Learned, Christopher explains why nobody believes Elon Musk's statements about robot taxis and fancy new chips. Finally, David interviews Oleg Stavitsky, the CEO of a company called Endel that makes algorithmically-generated soundtracks for your life, about how a computer can learn to make music and whether every aspiring rock star should be nervous.

Key points in this episode

David, Joanna and Christopher dive into the algorithms that determine everything from social media feeds to jail sentences, and try to figure out how to make them better and more transparent. Then Erich Schwartzel comes on, from the front seat of his mom's car, to talk about the Disney+ streaming service and the future of the House of Mouse. In this week's Today I Learned, a brief sojourn into Joanna's early experiences with the Samsung Galaxy Fold. Finally, David interviews Stacy Spikes, the founder of MoviePass, about why he can't stop trying to fix the movie theater.

Key points in this episode

First, the Wall Street Journal's digital science editor Daniela Hernandez joins David, Joanna and Christopher with all details of the first-ever image of a black hole -- and why it's made everyone space and science nerds again. Plus, WSJ's automotive reporter Tim Higgins explains how tech companies are trying to claim new territory: the dashboard of your car. Then, Wiebe Wakker tells David about completing the world's longest electric car journey, making it from the Netherlands to Australia with nothing but the help of strangers (and electricity) along the way.

Key points in this episode

This week, it's all about how we buy stuff and how that stuff gets to us. David, Joanna and Christopher bring on WSJ reporter Katie Bindley to talk about how to make sure you're getting the best deals on Amazon-and all the ways what you see on the page might not be what you think. Next, Julie Jargon, the team's new Family & Tech columnist, comes on to talk about a project she worked on before she took up her new gig: The Journal's Delivery Wars series looked at the tension between customers who want everything on their doorstep and businesses who want to actually make money. Finally, Christopher interviews Yariv Bash, CEO of Flytrex, about whether drones could one day deliver everything we need right into our hands.

Key points in this episode

David, Chris and Joanna gather to discuss the week's Apple news. Which was Apple News. And Apple News Plus. Plus a credit card, a videogame arcade and a promise-if not proof-of A-list original videos. Our own Apple reporter Tripp Mickle arrives to shed some insights. And also to compare the Apple Card to the University of Virginia basketball team. Joanna heroically sticks to the Apple theme and explains the trouble with the latest MacBook keyboard. Then David arrives with the palate cleanser: an interview with Cal Newport, author of Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World.

Key points in this episode

David, Joanna and Christopher try to remember-and discuss-the many new Apple gadgets from this week. Bonus: Christopher's Jony Ive impression makes its first appearance on the show. Next, WSJ's Sarah Needleman comes on to discuss Google's new game-streaming service, Stadia, and what it might mean for how we play and watch videogames. Before she leaves, Sarah also gives us a hint at the latest from Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, the Pokemon Go successor we've been waiting for. Finally, David talks to Casper co-founder Jeff Chapin about why it's so hard to track your sleep, and whether technology belongs in the bedroom at all.

Key points in this episode

David and Joanna talk about the many strange consequences of sharing your kids' pictures on social media. What happens when they get older and see what you've shared, or their image ends up somewhere you never expected? Later, Tim Higgins joins from a hotel room in Los Angeles, where Elon Musk revealed the new Tesla Model Y, the SUV that promises to get all your kids to soccer practice faster than ever. Last, David sits down FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and our own telecom reporter Sarah Krouse to talk about what the FCC says is its consumer priority No. 1: the never-ending, all-consuming, ringing-off-the-hook robocall problem.

Key points in this episode

David, Joanna and Christopher each bring their favorite new thing from this year's Mobile World Congress, the annual showcase of all things smartphone. Then WSJ reporter Sam Schechner comes on to discuss his investigation into apps that share sensitive data-everything from your diet to your pregnancy status-with Facebook, and what those companies do with all that data. Later, Qualcomm President Cristiano Amon talks about the 5G future, and what all this new and confusing technical jargon might actually mean for our lives.

Key points in this episode

David, Joanna and Christopher ponder the wisdom of a folding Samsung smartphone following its debut. Reporter Bob McMillan joins the crew to explain how Pinterest has shut off search for one of its most controversial topics. And, as Oscar night approaches, David interviews Black List creator Franklin Leonard and our own Ben Fritz about Hollywood's recent upheaval.

Key points in this episode

David, Joanna and Christopher talk about the Journal's scoop on Apple News' subscription plans, and whether "Netflix for news" can work. Reporter Greg Bensinger shows up to explain why Silicon Valley suddenly can't get enough of food delivery. Then, WSJ's Rolfe Winkler and 23andMe CEO Anne Wojcicki debate the merits of in-home DNA tests-and what you can do with all that personal data-in an excerpt from last week's WSJ Health Tech Conference.

Key points in this episode

First, Joanna tells David and Christopher about her experiment with an "ethical hacker" who got into as many of her webcams as he could-and the key insights she learned from him about staying safer online. Then reporter Betsy Morris joins the gang to explain how being more like Fortnite (and less like Facebook) has made Houseparty so popular with teens and young adults. Afterwards, Impossible Foods CEO Pat Brown tells David about how technology makes healthier, more ethical-yet still delicious-protein. David tasted the all-plant Impossible Burger 2.0 a month ago, and still can't get it off his mind.

Key points in this episode

David and Christopher talk through the brewing privacy battle between Apple and Facebook, and figure out how a developer certificate became a weapon. Then reporter Tripp Mickle comes on to talk through Apple's latest earnings, including what it means for the smartphone business and which hints the company dropped about its content plans. Last, Jason Gay, sports columnist and noted Super Bowl goer, comes on to talk about all the ways the sports- and TV-watching experience is changing. He has no ideas for your Super Bowl party, unfortunately, but why stop the nacho cheese dip now?

Key points in this episode

David, Joanna and Christopher discuss WSJ's investigation into companies inflating their Glassdoor ratings. Next, reporter Rob Copeland joins them on the mic to describe how he reported his story on the decline of Silicon Valley's legendary fundraising. After a quick tip-how to move multiple apps quickly on your phone-David interviews Chris Sheldrick, CEO of startup What3words, about why street addresses are stupid in the digital age.

Key points in this episode

David, Joanna and Christopher ponder the flip phone's future after WSJ broke news of Motorola's upcoming Razr reboot. Then they call up reporter Stu Woo in London to explain why we keep hearing about Huawei in the news, and what it means to customers. Then the gang shares tips on breaking the reliance on Facebook's birthday reminders. Finally, David interviews the creator of the new National Geographic series "Valley of the Boom," about the early days of the web.

Key points in this episode

David hits the CES tech show in Vegas, then reports back to Joanna and Christopher, who decided to avoid the crowds this year. His favorites: Hyundai's walking car and Samsung's modular MicroLED TV, which could be plastered across an entire wall. But first, they have an obligatory catch up on Apple woes, namely iPhone XR, aka the not-so-little iPhone that couldn't. After Christopher shares some helpful email pointers, David interviews Segway-Ninebot's Tony Ho about why electric scooters are, like, the best.

Key points in this episode

David, Joanna and Christopher ring in the New Year with their tech resolutions, but first they wring their hands over Apple's latest drama (China dragging down the iPhone King?) and Tesla's new headache (How can supply AND demand be down?). For the latter, they seek the wisdom of reporter Tim Higgins (Does Elon Musk have soft hands?). Finally, David interviews Renee James, a longtime Intel exec and founder of chipmaker Ampere, about the role processors play in Netflix binge-watching and personal data collection.

Key points in this episode

David, Joanna and Christopher dive into the hidden world you didn't know was lurking behind the reviews you see on Amazon. Then reporter Deepa Seetharaman comes in to explain the latest in a long line of Facebook scandals, and debate what might happen next. Since it's that time of year, the three hosts offer last-minute gift ideas, then David interviews director Gary Hustwit about his new film "Rams." They talk about the film's subject, the famed designer Dieter Rams-and why he says if he could start over, he wouldn't be a designer again.

Key points in this episode

David and Christopher discuss Google CEO Sundar Pichai's visit to Washington. Will technologists and politicians ever speak the same language? Then they grab reporter Eliot Brown to recount the electric scooter craze that's swept the country in 2018. After a quick rundown of the best headphones to buy, David interviews composer and Man Made Music founder Joel Beckerman, father of many sounds that are familiar to your ears.

Key points in this episode

David, Joanna and Christopher explore the question, Will robots take our jobs or be our work buddies? (Answer: Both, kinda.) Then they bring in Katie Bindley to talk about the complicated privacy situation for users of the popular Venmo payment app. Next, Joanna recommends the best mesh Wi-Fi router to buy. And finally, David braves the self-driving traffic to talk with Waymo CEO John Krafcik about the future of transportation.

Key points in this episode

David, Joanna and Christopher attempt to explain "5G"-amazing future tech or vague marketing term? Then they grab reporter Sarah Needleman to shed light on something even more confounding: the open office. Phone-booth pointers and personal-hygiene anecdotes ensue. After a quick chat about boring gifts that people will totally love, David interviews Twitch CEO Emmett Shear and asks: Why do millions of people like watching other people play video games?

Key points in this episode

On the heels of WSJ's D.Live 2018 tech conference in Laguna Beach, Calif., Personal Tech columnist David Pierce highlights a few of the most interesting moments, from Gwyneth Paltrow's Goop startup secrets to the director of Google's threat analysis group discussing countries using the internet as a battleground. Plus, tech columnist Christopher Mims talks with Rodin Lyasoff, CEO of the Airbus research group A3, about the future of flying cars.

Key points in this episode

After the WSJ Tech D.Live conference, David, Joanna and Christopher discuss a question that loomed large over the event-and 2018: What responsibilities do companies have to their users? They also touch on smart dust and cheap Apple Watch bands. Bonus: Editor-at-large Gerard Baker interviews Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi about the IPO and more.

Key points in this episode


0:00
0:00