Reply All used to be required listening if you were interested in the internet, even more so after it became Gimlet Media’s first flagship podcast. Back then it was essential that PJ and Alex be on top of the socials, especially so they could play Yes, Yes, No with their somewhat clueless boss, to the delight of this somewhat clueless listener. But today? Why on earth would PJ Vogt be hanging around on the shitesite while simultaneously feeling bad about hanging around on the shitesite?

I confess I did not follow PJ in his new vehicle, search engine. We drifted apart. When, somehow, an episode entitled Is there a sane way to use the internet?1 floated down my stream, I slowly managed to Huffduff the YouTube version so I could listen at my leisure.2

It was a good episode, in which PJ earnestly quizzed Ezra Klein about sane internet usage. Two points resonated particularly for me.

First was taking McLuhan’s the medium is the message and extending it to point out that dominant media formats change our notion of what communication ought to be. In a world of 280-character statements, everything has to be a 280-character statement, even if it requires the absurdity of inventing first the thread and then the thread unroller. Klein identified the problem as not that one needs to distinguish good tweets from bad tweets, but that all thoughts have to fit into a single tweet.

I think he said something like, “there are no worthy long thoughts any more”.

All because it was so damned easy to write those 280 characters in the heat of the moment, so much easier than firing up any kind of blogging system. And that mindset continues to affect all kinds of behaviour, from people writing threads (and building thread unrollers) on Mastodon to those same people, who happily dash off hot takes left and right, complaining that they have nothing to write.

As for PJ’s inability to give it up, “It’s done. Just leave.” Which, to his (eventual) credit, PJ might have done. At least, he says he has. And, surprise surprise, he says he doesn’t miss it.

The second point that struck me was Klein’s distinction between actually liking something, taking pleasure in it, and the activity of clicking a Like or Share button. They just are not the same thing, and we forget that all the time. That is especially germane to podcasts, where despite pleas for ratings and reviews — mea culpa — What we really want is engagement. The best response to a podcast should be “Huh?”. In other words, did it make me think.

This time, yes, it did.

  1. From back in October 2023, though this link to PodPulse may be easier as it includes a handy-dandy (AI-generated?) summary and key takeaways. 

  2. For a guy who apparently lives and dies on the internet, PJ is surprisingly all in on silos. Even his personal domain redirects to Substack. I find that odd. And lazy. 

Two ways to respond: webmentions and comments


Webmentions allow conversations across the web, based on a web standard. They are a powerful building block for the decentralized social web.

“Ordinary” comments

These are not webmentions, but ordinary old-fashioned comments left by using the form below.

Reactions from around the web