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Note to Self

Note to Self

Is your phone watching you? Can texting make you smarter? Are your kids real? Note to Self explores these and other essential quandaries facing anyone trying to preserve their humanity in the digital age. WNYC Studios is a listener-supported producer of other leading podcasts, including Radiolab, Death, Sex & Money, Snap Judgment, Here?s the Thing with Alec Baldwin, Nancy and many others. © WNYC Studios


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How to Create Good Digital Citizens

Right from wrong. We teach our kids what this means in the classroom and at home. But what about online? The next generation of tech users could be a part of much more civilized digital universe, but only if they learn how now. Manoush talks to Richard Culatta (CEO of the International Society for Technology in Education) about the five steps to creating good digital citizens, and how to turn the current online ?culture shift? into something positive, respectful, and more accessible to all.

Sign up for Manoush?s newsletter and find her other podcasts at and

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Why Everyone is Talking About Digital Minimalism

Computer scientist and cult-blogger, Cal Newport, wants you to take 30 dates off from all your personal tech. A month off, he claims, is the only way to truly adopt Digital Minimalism, his method for finding tech-life balance and the name of his latest book. Manoush loves a digital detox as much as the next overloaded person, but she explains to Cal why she has issues with his particular prescriptions. 

Manoush writes a newsletter that comes out every other Thursday. Sign up at and find her other podcasts at and

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How The Best Teacher Teaches Creativity

In 2018, Andria Zafirakou was named Global Teacher of the Year and given $1m in prize money. Why? Because this innovative art teacher (and mother of two) helped transform her struggling school in London?s poorest neighborhood into an educational powerhouse: the Alperton Community School now ranks in the top 4% of ALL UK schools. Andria says the techniques she uses in her classroom can be used to improve education on a global scale. On this episode, she shares her creative know-how and how we can all prepare the next generation of innovators? and get more creative ourselves.

Sign up for Manoush?s newsletter and find her other podcasts at and

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Note to Self is Back and We Start with The Big One: Kids and Screens

The tech show about being human returns with an all new season. Host Manoush Zomorodi kicks things off with the latest on the battle between kids and parents over their screens: do we know how kids are impacted by tech? Does it make them less empathetic? Are they being constantly bullied online? Even if we can help kids figure out their digital habits, are we adults totally screwed? Researcher Elizabeth Englander joins Manoush to share new findings and give the most pragmatic advice about how kids and adults can build better relationships with their tech and each other.

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Note to Self is Back!

Note to Self helps you navigate the digital age by making sense of its most undervalued component: humans! With all new episodes coming every Tuesday, host Manoush Zomorodi investigates the very personal role technology plays in our lives and how we can live better with it. Because you are so much more than an algorithm.

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Rice Bunny: The Me Too Movement Comes to China

This week we?re discussing government censorship in China, #metoo and cryptocurrency.

Endless Thread is hosted by Ben Brock Johnson and Amory Sivertson, and is made by WBUR.

You can listen to the show at

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Dear (Data) Diary

Long-distance friends Giorgia Lupi and Stefanie Posavec spent a year tracking the little things in life. Thanks yous, coffees, complaints, street sounds. And each week, they turned their small-scale data collections into whimsical hand-drawn postcards.

On a minute level, they may not say much. But look at them together and they tell an intimate story. This week, Giorgia and Stefanie talk us through three weeks of data, and all the big lessons in our most mundane moments.

Look at more postcards by Giorgia and Stefanie here

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A Different Kind of Streaking

With former Google designer Tristan Harris, who explains how far Silicon Valley will go to capture and control your eyeballs. And Snapchat artist CyreneQ, who makes her living drawing on her phone all day. For real.

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Your Metadata is Showing

We asked you guys to send us photos. Then we gave them to Andreas Weigend, veteran of Xerox Parc, former chief scientist at Amazon, to see what he could deduce. A lot, it turns out.

A little Google image search, a little metadata, and we can find where you are. Maybe who you are. What color phone you?re using to take the shot, and how many SIM cards you have.

Reading photos is more than a digital parlor trick. It?s the future of commerce, marketing, policing, lending, and basically everything else.


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Whose Bot Army Is Following Manoush?

Bot armies are taking over Twitter. But they?re not necessarily trying to advance a point of view, according to Phil Howard, a bot researcher. They?re aiming to sow chaos and make dialogue impossible. At the extreme, the goal is to destabilize our very sense of reality.  

?Their strategy is to plant multiple conflicting stories that just confuse everybody," Howard says. "If they can successfully get out four different explanations for some trend, then they've confused everybody, and they're able to own the agenda.?

This week, why someone would sic a bot army on Manoush. And what her bot brigade can teach us about how bots are shaping democracy, from the 2016 election to Brexit to the recent French election.

You can check if a Twitter account following you is real or fake, with Bot or Not, an aptly-named tool from Indiana University's Truthy project.

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The Fourth Amendment Needs Your Attention

This week, Note to Self gets in our time machine, back to the Supreme Court cases that defined privacy for the digital age. Stories of bookies on the Sunset Strip, microphones taped to phone booths, and a 1975 Monte Carlo. And where the Fourth Amendment needs to go, now that we?re living in the future.

The amendment doesn?t mention privacy once. But those 54 little words, written more than 200 years ago, are a crucial battleground in today?s fight over our digital rights. That one sentence is why the government can?t listen to your phone calls without a warrant. And it?s why they don?t need one to find out who you?re calling.

But now, we share our deepest thoughts with Google, through what we search for and what we email. And we share our most intimate conversations with Alexa, when we talk in its vicinity. So how does the Fourth Amendment apply when we?re surrounded by technology the founding fathers could never dream of?

With Laura Donohue, director of Georgetown?s Center on Privacy and Technology. Supreme Court audio from the wonderful, under a Creative Commons license.


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Is the Opioid Epidemic a Tech Problem?

The Dark Web conjures images of gothic fonts and black backgrounds, like a metal fan?s MySpace page circa 2001. But this section of the internet looks surprisingly normal. Accessible only through the TOR browser, there are Google-style search engines and Amazon-style marketplaces. Except what they?re selling are mostly illegal things?stolen passports, hacked account numbers, and drugs. A lot of drugs.

This week, we stress out WNYC?S IT department and venture onto the Dark Web. Where you can get heroin, fentanyl, or oxycontin shipped right to your door via USPS. And we talk to Nick Bilton, author of American Kingpin: The Epic Hunt for the Criminal Mastermind Behind the Silk Road, about how Libertarian philosophy and tech-bro hubris combined to spark an online drug revolution?and an opioid crisis.

And the Dark Web community is starting to recognize the role they're playing. Since we recorded this episode, Hansa Market - the very site we visit in the show - has banned the sale of fentanyl, according to the New York Times. 

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How To Have No Filter

Today, listener stories and tips: we wrap up our No Filter series of conversations about how women live online.

From YouTube megastar Lele Pons to iconic artist Barbara Kruger, we heard a joyous mix of vulnerable confessions, utter defiance, and (for once) a mostly positive vision of what being a woman on the web can look like. To wrap it up, stories from you. About how you?re reconciling the IRL you with the online you. Plus, The Cut?s editor-in-chief Stella Bugbee is back with her greatest hope for the next generation of women in the workplace.


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No Filter: Jasmyn Lawson

We couldn?t close out No Filter, our series on women owning it online, without profiling Jasmyn Lawson, former culture editor at Giphy. That's the search engine that houses all those looped videos we use to express emotion - and ourselves - online.

But when Jasmyn started working there, she couldn?t find many gifs that looked like her. "Just having Beyonce and Rihanna and Nicki Minaj is not enough to say you're representing black women." So she made her own.

Jasmyn Lawson (Ryan Pfluger)


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No Filter: Barbara Kruger


The iconic artist talks to Manoush about our curated selfies, owning a font, and why we all need likes. Plus, The Cut?s editor in chief Stella Bugbee.

If you missed the other episodes of No Filter earlier this week, go back! Instagram megastar Lele Pons, Transparent actor Trace Lysette, painter Amy Sherald, who made Michelle Obama?s official portrait, and anchor Christiane Amanpour.

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No Filter: Christiane Amanpour

The CNN anchor talks to Manoush about sex, wearing a ?uniform,? and staying profesh on air and online.

Plus, Call Your Girlfriend co-host and Cut contributor Ann Friedman, who almost fell out of her ergonomic chair when she found out she?d be in the same episode as Christiane.

Christiane?s new show is Sex & Love Around the World. And Ann?s podcast is, of course, Call Your Girlfriend, with Aminatou Sow.

Christiane Amanpour, on No Filter: Women Owning It Online. (Brigitte Lacombe)

Every day this week, a new episode of our series, No Filter: Women Owning It Online, with New York Magazine?s The Cut. Five conversations with badass women. And trust us, you don?t have to be a woman for this series to be a must-listen.

We?ve heard from Instagram megastar Lele Pons, Transparent actor Trace Lysette, and painter Amy Sherald, who made Michelle Obama?s official portrait. Tomorrow, we close the week with iconic artist Barbara Kruger.


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No Filter: Amy Sherald

Her portrait of Michelle Obama went viral. Painter Amy Sherald dismisses the haters. ?Some people want their poetry to rhyme.?

Plus, Allison P. Davis, Senior Culture Writer at The Cut, on how picking Amy was like Michelle Obama choosing her own Instagram filter. 

Painter Amy Sherald, our guest for day three of No Filter: Women Owning It Online. (Susana Raab )

This is day three of our weeklong series, No Filter: Women Owning It Online, with New York Magazine?s The Cut. Five conversations with badass women. Some old, some young. ALL have bent the internet to their will. And trust us, you don?t have to be a woman for this series to be a must-listen.

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No Filter: Trace Lysette

Every day this week, a new episode of our series, No Filter: Women Owning It Online, with New York Magazine?s The Cut. Five conversations with badass women. Some old, some young. ALL have bent the internet to their will. And trust us, you don?t have to be a woman for this series to be a must-listen.

Transparent star Trace Lysette talks to Manoush about the political nude selfie, her #metoo moment, and constructing her self online and IRL. Plus, how her life as a young trans woman prepared her to confront Jeffrey Tambor and live her truth.

With Noreen Malone, features editor at The Cut. 

Trace Lysette, our guest for day two of the No Filter series. (Ryan Pfluger )

This is day two of No Filter. Yesterday, Instagram megastar Lele Pons. Coming up, painter Amy Sherald, who created that stunning portrait of Michelle Obama. CNN anchor Christiane Amanpour. Iconic artist Barbara Kruger, who blew all of our minds. Plus writers from The Cut.

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No Filter: Lele Pons

Every day this week, a new episode of our series, No Filter: Women Owning It Online, with New York Magazine?s The Cut. Five conversations with badass women. Some old, some young. ALL have bent the internet to their will. And trust us, you don?t have to be a woman for this series to be a must-listen.

Today, Lele Pons. And if you?re thinking ?Lele who??, you?re not a teen girl. The Instagram megastar talks to Manoush about crafting her image, controlling her edits, and why she gives her cell number to fans. And Allie Jones, senior writer at The Cut, who wrote a profile of Lele in 2017.

Coming up tomorrow, Transparent actor Trace Lysette. Wednesday, painter Amy Sherald, who created that stunning portrait of Michelle Obama. Then CNN's chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour, and iconic artist Barbara Kruger, who blew all of our minds. Plus writers from The Cut.

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Why We Need No Filter

It?s here! The first episode in our new series, No Filter: Women Owning It Online, with New York Magazine?s The Cut.

Today, our launch episode. Every day next week, a new conversation with a badass woman about the highs and lows of living online. And how they've bent the internet to their will. Trust us, you don?t have to be a woman for this series to be a must-listen.

Erica Joy Baker, senior engineering manager. (Amy Harrity )

Since #metoo, we?re rethinking what it means to be a woman in the world. But what about being a woman online? In this first episode, why we need No Filter. Plus, we go deep with senior engineering manager Erica Joy Baker. She?s worked behind the scenes at Google, Slack, Patreon. Sites we use to present ourselves to the world, built mostly by white men. Erica explains why that really matters.

It wouldn?t be a Note to Self series without your voice. How do YOU portray yourself online? How does the internet mess with your head? How do you mess back? Let us know. Record a voice memo from your browser or phone. Or email us at [email protected] 

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My Digital Revolution

Stories of life online, told live. We teamed up with Generation Women, a monthly event where women from their 20s to their 80s share stories on a theme. For this episode, the theme is My Digital Revolution. Tales from the wellness editor at Teen VogueKathy Tu from the Nancy podcastChirlane McCray, the first lady of New York. And Carol Prisant, the most baller septuagenarian you?ve ever heard. For real. Plus, Generation Women founder Georgia Clark.

Our new series No Filter: Women Owning It Online was inspired by Generation Women?s all ages approach. Since #metoo, we're all rethinking what it means to be a woman in the world. But what does it mean to be a woman on the web? To find out, we've partnered with New York Magazine's The CutHear our launch episode now.

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Am I Normal?

Everyone wants to know if we?re normal. Is my body normal, is my brain normal, are my feelings normal? Data artist Mona Chalabi will tell you. And she?ll explain why normal is BS.

In the right hands, data is more than statistics. It can expand our understanding of ourselves, and this strange planet that we call home.

Mona is the data editor at The Guardian, and host of the new podcast Strange Bird. She makes hand-drawn illustrations of data, from when people eat pizza to how many women remove facial hair to average testicle size (that one?s an interactive chart. For real). And what data can and can?t tell us about America.


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What to Think About Before Posting Family Photos

A little while back, we asked you some questions about posting photos. Do you post pictures of your kids? Do your parents post photos of you? Why, why not?

We thought maybe a couple hundred people would answer.

But we struck a nerve. We got more than twelve hundred responses, with more than six hundred long-form answers (highlights here). You have strong feelings on this one. Feelings full of nuance and complexity, no surprise.

This week, psychologist and author Guy Winch helps untangle our mixed posting emotions. He sees kids and adults, individuals and families in his private practice, and he has a new book, How to Fix a Broken Heart.

Plus, Charlotte Philby, a mom whose family posts were part of her brand - until she stopped gramming cold turkey.


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Have Dating Apps Killed Romance?

Here?s a real message from OKCupid: ?Hi, good evening, nice photos. You are not fat.? And that?s one of the few messages polite enough to share. It?s rough on dating apps. But so many of us are using them. How can romance survive?

Well, maybe it can?t.

This week, sociologist Eric Klinenberg joins Manoush to make the case that dating apps have killed romance. And Eric co-wrote a book on modern love with Aziz Ansari, so he should know. Eric and Manoush feel so strongly, in fact, that they?re debating Helen Fisher, biological anthropologist and Chief Scientific Adviser to, and Tom Jacques, vice president of engineering at OkCupid. Live, on stage.

We go behind the scenes as they prepare for battle. Featuring a mystery dater, full of horror stories and insights in the quest for 21st century love.  


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Help Us Collect Political Ads on Facebook

ProPublica reporter Julia Angwin is collecting political ads on Facebook, all across the country. Just in case someone needs to check on them later. Like if the Russians bought thousands of ads to sway an election. And she needs your help.

She and her team built a browser plugin that collects ads from Facebook, and asks users like you to decide if the ads are political or not. Ads marked as political are gathered into a giant database - the only repository of these ads available to the public.

The last time Julia gave us an assignment, tens of thousands of you helped her reveal racist ad categories and potentially illegal housing discrimination on Facebook. Then Facebook worked hard to fix that. We made change. Let?s do it again. To start submitting political ads you see, download the plugin for Firefox or Chrome.


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Meet an Online Emotional Escort

When we get big news these days, we reach for our phones. We text our loved ones. Husband, wife, mom, best friend. Or, in some cases, our Invisible Girlfriend.

We all need someone to tell (or text) our stories to. Even if they?re paid to text back.

This week, we revisit a story from 2015 about a service called Invisible Girlfriend/Boyfriend, and how it?s helping lonely adults use their phones to feel understood. Even to feel loved.

Quentin, a man in his 30s with cerebral palsy, wonders if his Invisible Girlfriend is really right for him. Journalist Kashmir Hill became an Invisible Girlfriend, and was paid pennies per message as an emotional escort. And psychologist Sherry Turkle weighs the strengths and limitations of our text-based love affairs.


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How to Find the Right Amount of Screen Time

Screen time is a daily battle. Between kids and parents, between ourselves and our better judgment. But maybe it doesn?t have to be. There is a better way.

This week, Manoush talks with NPR education correspondent Anya Kamenetz about her brand new book, The Art of Screen Time: How Your Family Can Balance Digital Media and Real Life. Practical strategies, solid research, and some reassurance that mostly we?re all gonna be fine. Phew.

And we peek at the extremes of screen obsession, from the north of England to South Korea, thanks to reporter Dina Temple-Raston and her new podcast, What Were You Thinking: Inside the Adolescent Brain.  

Links from the show:

Common Sense Media

Fast Company?s survey on parents and screen time

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Dear Manoush: The Advice Episode

You send us a lot of questions about managing tech-life. This week, Manoush has the answers.  

Is there a secret to managing the overload of information coming at us every day? What about all those random accounts you?ve signed up for over the years - can we EVER make them go away? And how do we stay plugged in with friends and family if we decide to break up with social media? It?s the first-ever Note to Self advice show.



While researching this show we compiled a list of tools to help you manage information overload and your digital privacy, and ditch FOMO for JOMO.

Setting an information goal.

Manoush has some tips for resetting how you read, post, and browse online. No need to feel icky about Instagram. But when discipline and diligence don?t work out, it?s okay to seek help. Our favorites: airplane mode (sorry), Moment for iOS, Freedom, and Self Control. Also, try some DIY adjustments to your app permissions - turn off your cellular data for Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and you can?t browse when you?re out and about. Oh, also check out Infomagical - a week?s worth of challenges, with Manoush?s moral support, to help you manage infomania.

Bonus: Manoush recommends some of her favorite newsletters in the show. What makes it past her info-management threshold? The Ann Friedman Weekly, Axios, Quartzy, REDEF, and Dave Pell?s Next Draft.

Reclaiming your digital self.

Digital privacy matters - even if you don?t have something to hide. That?s why we dedicated a whole project to it last year: The Privacy Paradox. Good for first timers, and even worth a refresher.

Other things the team loves:

from the EFF, a tool to help you track what?s tracking you online, to delete the random accounts you?ve accumulated over the years DeleteMe, a service you can pay to opt you out of data brokers Julia Angwin?s DIY guide/report on opting out of over 200 data brokers and, to find the cancellation pages for the services you?ve signed up for.

Bonuses: our friend Mike Rogers, the developer we mention in the show, made a Chrome extension for, and it?s open source. We also found this page, where Facebook lists the data brokers it buys from and provides their opt-out pages. Pretty helpful.    

Also, we mention the quest for a perfect oatmeal cookie recipe in this episode, and how opening your phone for that can send you down a rabbit hole. So, to save you that one hunt, here.


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Dan Harris Knows All Your Excuses for Not Meditating

We can?t stop the world from turning. Or the vitriol getting posted online. But we can control how (or whether) we react.

Dan Harris anchors ABC News Nightline and Good Morning America on the weekends. His first book chronicled how meditation pretty much transformed him from a jerk to a total mensch. His latest is Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics. His podcast - and app - are also called 10% Happier? and thanks to a listener?s suggestion, Manoush and Dan are on each other?s podcasts this week.

To talk the difference between ?mindful? and ?purposeful? tech use and how meditation can be a political act. It?s inspiring stuff. They jibed. Please check out both episodes.

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Search Inside Yourself For Peace and Joy

Chade-Meng Tan was employee number 107 at Google. And before he retired at the ripe old age of 44, he created a class there, Search Inside Yourself. It was about mindfulness, with an engineering twist. He never said go deep into your emotions, because engineers would ask ?How do you quantify deep or shallow?? Which itself is kind of a deep question, really?

Let?s create some calm as this year ends. It all starts with one deep breath.


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Look Into the Future with Black Mirror

Preserving dead loved ones through AI. Social scoring and ranking. Hacking personal details for extortion. When Black Mirror?s Charlie Brooker and Annabel Jones came on the show, we asked them how it feels to basically predict the future. And Charlie said he doesn?t. He just has a sarcastic vision of the present.

Even if you've never seen Black Mirror, this episode is a good listen. Because their fictional stories seem to keep manifesting in reality. Season Four of the Emmy-award-winning Netflix show comes out December 29th. A perfect time to revisit this delightfully witty and optimistic conversation.


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Alexa, Is Amazon Taking Over The World?

This week, the tradeoffs we don?t see when we shop on Amazon. How the company?s dominance from retail to web hosting could create a dystopia of social profiling. Why the answer isn?t to cancel your Prime. And yes, I test drive the Amazon Look so you don?t have to.

Amazon is the new Standard Oil, the ?titan of twenty-first century commerce,? as rock star lawyer Lina Khan wrote in her viral law journal note.

Which, incidentally, might be a nice thing to include with your packages this year. We made a handy printable card with a link to her 96-page blockbuster. Give the gift of light reading on modern antitrust policy, along with those colanders and scarves.

(Note to Self)


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"You Deserve to Die" and Other Fun Conversation Starters

Dylan Marron is internet famous. He makes clever and (actually) funny little Facebook-friendly videos about light topics like Islamophobia, masculinity, privilege. Which attract a *lot* of comments. Many loving and laudatory. Many? not.

Like the message from a grandmother in North Dakota saying he deserved to die. The teenager saying he was the most pathetic human being he?d ever seen. A gay artist in Atlanta saying he was everything wrong with liberalism. At first Dylan was shaken. Then he was curious. So he started calling these people. And Conversations With People Who Hate Me was born.

This week, the lovely Dylan Marron on the benefits of talking to our haters, and why it?s good for the country as well as your soul.  



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Let?s Check The Tape

An incomplete list of objects that are listening to us: Siri. Alexa. Google Home. The Nest. Our cars. Our smart TVs.  Cayla dolls.

All these listening devices raise digital privacy concerns, of course. But recordings can be really useful, too. If only there was tape from a courthouse hallway in Alabama, circa 1979. A mall in Gadsden, Alabama, early 1980s. A Congressional office building, a USO tour. You never know when a transcript of your everyday life might come in handy.

The transcribed life is closer than ever. In this repeat episode, one intrepid woman records every single minute of her life, for three straight days. And then lets us listen in. To a lot of mundane minutia, and one extremely uncomfortable interaction.

Tape can change things. Knowing we?re being recorded can modify behavior. It can create accountability. But it doesn?t erase power dynamics. The Access Hollywood recording of then-candidate Donald Trump joking about grabbing women. The audio of Harvey Weinstein in a hotel hallway, admitting to groping Ambra Battilana Gutierrez. Sometimes, a tape doesn?t make a bit of difference.

With guest co-host Rose Eveleth, of the Flash Forward podcast.


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The Lawsuit that Could Shine a Light on Cambridge Analytica

Pictured above is Alexander Nix, CEO of Cambridge Analytica, speaking in November 2017. 

David Carroll is hunting for information. About himself. He knows himself pretty well. And so does a controversial marketing firm.

Cambridge Analytica claims it holds up to 5,000 data points on over 230 million American voters. The company implied it was the secret sauce in the Trump campaign (then they took that back.)  

But this company may share your online marketing profile with political campaigns, retailers, and potentially foreign governments. What if you, the profiled, wanted to have a look too?

David, father of two, professor of tech-design and online ad researcher, made that request and now is suing for further information. This week, what David found. And didn?t find in his file. And what it could mean for our democracy.


You can request your own file from Cambridge Analytica. Let us know if you do and what you find.

Feeling super creeped out about what marketing firms know about you? Turn that creepy feeling to action with the Privacy Paradox. Our series designed to help you reclaim your digital identity with easy, daily action-steps and podcasts.

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Revisiting Cambridge Analytica?s Role in the Presidential Election

The first chapter in our look at Cambridge Analytica. Back in March, we asked the controversial digital marketing firm what services they provided for Trump. And experimented with our own psychometric profiles. 

Listen to our latest episode to learn about the new lawsuit that could shine a light on Cambridge Analytica.

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It?s Not Over Nyet

When governments start pulling the strings of power with algorithms and bots... we ALL become political puppets. Listeners, it?s time to consider how online interference moves into the physical world.

President Trump recently met with Russian president Vladimir Putin who told him that his country definitely didn?t meddle in the U.S. election last year, online or off. Good thing that?s cleared up.

But if for some reason you?re not inclined to take either (or both) of those two men at their word, this week, some tips. How to spot a botnet. How psychometrics sells sneakers - and worldviews. And how to make sure you?re not the useful idiot. The final installment of our Nyet series, with information warfare expert Molly McKew.  

Become a member today and support our work. Just visit

Listen to our first and second episodes. For more spy terms explained, reasonable/sensible coping strategies for when democracy is under threat, and Nyet more puns.   


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Spy Terms of the Internyet

Russian spy tactics have gotten an upgrade since the Cold War. This week how they work now: bad actors, active measures, advanced persistent threats. Cyberwar has its own vocabulary. So we got ourselves a tutor.

Join Manoush and information warfare expert Molly McKew, who puts the fun in fundamental assault on democracy. 

Become a member today and support our work. Just visit

This is the second episode of our series on Russia. Listen to the first and last parts. For more spy terms explained, reasonable/sensible coping strategies for when democracy is under threat, and Nyet more puns.   

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Nyet Just a Conspiracy Theory?

During the presidential campaign, Daily Beast executive editor Noah Shachtman opened up Twitter, saw all the vitriol and fake news and conspiracy theories, and thought 'Man, is this really my country?' 

Then Noah and his team started to investigate Russian interference in the election. Videos made in Russia, purporting to be from the American South. Activist groups invented in Russia, prompting Americans in Idaho to attend real-life protests.

Is this his country? Yes. Also, maybe no.  

As Facebook, Twitter and Google?s parent company Alphabet sit down before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Note to Self is separating conspiracy from reality. Connecting the dots without turning the office into a scene from Homeland.

With Noah Shachtman and reporter Spencer Ackerman of The Daily Beast.

Plus, a look back at what we knew all along. We started in November 2016 with tech under the Trump administration. In March, we questioned Facebook?s responsibility for fake news with former ad executive Antonio Garcia Martinez. Exploring the Trump campaign?s use of psychometrics, we interviewed the chief product officer of data-profiling company Cambridge Analytica. April brought a foray into the alt-right corners of Reddit, and the origins of the word cucked. And in May, we talked to Phil Howard, an Oxford University professor among the first to research the armies of Russian bots spreading garbage and confusion on Twitter.

Turns out, almost without realizing it, we?ve been assembling pieces of this puzzle all year.

Become a member today and support our work. Just visit

This is the first episode of our series on Russia. Listen to the second and third parts next. For more spy terms explained, reasonable/sensible coping strategies for when democracy is under threat, and Nyet more puns.   

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Where Do I Go Now?

Manoush is a nice human being. Polite, punctual, present. But man, is she a rude robot.

Recently, Manoush attended a conference as a telepresence robot. (Imagine an iPad, on top of two brooms, with a Roomba as the base.) And she careened around interrupting conversations, sideswiping people and disrupting panels. Literally an out-of-body experience.

We lose track of our bodies every day now. We spiral into some Instagram stalking mid-commute and bump into someone on the street. We surface from a text at dinner to a peeved friend, still waiting the end of our sentence. We follow the blue ribbon of our GPS right off a cliff. 

This week, the big and small ways we?ve put ourselves on autopilot. What we gain, and what we?ve lost. Because there was a time when humans were guided by the stars, not the satellites.

With researchers Allen Lin, Johannes Schöning, and Brent Hecht, who have their own embarrassing robot stories. And Greg Milner, author of Pinpoint: How GPS is Changing Technology, Culture, and Our Minds. The problem with GPS isn?t the machines, guys. It?s you.


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Play Video Games for Your Mental Health

If you?ve ever played video games, or swapped tiles around on Candy Crush, you know the feeling of winning. Like a light in your brain, a mental fist pump. But you probably also know that guilty feeling after realizing you've spent 30 minutes plugged in. That worry, when your kid spends hours on the console.

Jane McGonigal, game researcher and futurist, is here to take away some of that guilt. She?s a champion of gaming as a form of self-help. Because, Jane says, that light you feel when you unlock a level - that's your mind being altered. Slightly. 

Jane is optimistic about that power. Mind alteration can be a beautiful thing, and with games it is substance-free. But it also takes self-control to keep it healthy. This week, we set some ground rules. We first talked to Jane last year and we're revisiting the conversation with some added insights. 


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Talking to Myself

Eugenia Kuyda and her best friend Roman had a habit of texting back and forth all day. When he was killed in a car crash, the void was enormous. So she put her technical skills to use. She gathered all his texts, his emails, his entire digital footprint, loaded them into a system that finds patterns in data, and created a bot version of Roman.

Then she started hearing from other people who had lost loved ones. They wanted to make a bot too. And Replika was born.

Replika works mostly by texting with you. Through your chats, Replika learns your speech patterns and habits, thoughts and hopes and fears. It uses them to become you. To use the same emojis you do. Laugh (well, type ?lol?) at the things that make you laugh.

What could go wrong with a filter bubble of one?

Mike Murphy, a reporter for Quartz, spent months talking to Replika - talking to himself. He wrote a strange and powerful article about the experience. It turns out, he didn?t know himself as well as he thought he did.

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I Didn?t See Your Text

We used to RSVP to events. Now, invitations live in our Facebook notifications and group texts. And we just ignore them. It?s so easy to forget there?s a human on the other end. Asking you to show up.

Renowned psychotherapist Esther Perel says we?re suffering of aloneness. Our phones create distance and intimacy at the same time. Esther has a way out of this strange paradox - some ideas for how we can treat each other better.

We do, too. Well, Esther?s idea, our tool. Take five minutes and ask yourself - who do I owe a phone call to? Who do I need to check in with? Who did I leave hanging and never got back to?

We know that sounds daunting, so we?re here to help. You can text GHOST to 70101. We?ll reply (well, our textbot will), then we?ll check in a week later to see if you faced facts and made that list.


Correction: In the episode Manoush refers to Esther Perel as Dr. Esther Perel. Perel isn't a doctor, she is a psychotherapist.   

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Ghosting, Simmering and Icing with Esther Perel

So you?ve finally matched with someone you like on Tinder. Your chats are funny, smooth, comfortable. When you meet in person, you sit at a bar for five hours without noticing the time. ?That was so fun! Let?s do this again!? ?Yeah, sure!? ?How about next Tuesday??

Then? radio silence. Ghosted. Or maybe the fadeaway is more subtle. You try to make plans, and they?re into it, but they?re so busy. A project needs to be finished at work, then friends are in town. Yeah, you?re being simmered.

Online dating has given us a lot of new ways to get dumped. Or, you know, not. Esther Perel is our guide to this treacherous terrain. She is a renowned psychotherapist and author. Her new book is called The State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity, and her podcast is Where Should We Begin. She's giving us a two-part therapy session on how tech is changing romance, relationships, and our expectations of each other.

So listen in, even if you?re like Manoush and met your partner over 10 years ago, when things weren?t so complicated.  


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Forty Years of Coding In a Man's World

Silicon Valley has a gender issue. That's hardly breaking news. But things have escalated recently. Some examples from the last few weeks: The Ellen Pao saga. The James Damore memo at Google. The ouster of Uber?s CEO. The frat-house behavior at SoFi. The utter lack of consequences for VR startup Upload.

Sometimes it's straight-up harassment. And sometimes problems stem from the bro bubble - nice guys, but they?re all the same guys. Everyone else ?isn?t a good fit.?

Ellen Ullman has seen both. She started programming in 1978, when she wandered past a Radio Shack and taught herself how to code on the first personal computer.

Ellen's new book, Life in Code, is full of great and awful stories. Her love of the work. The joys of hunting down a bug. But also, the client who would rub her back while she tried to fix his system. The party full of young men drinking beer, including Larry Page, who offered her a job on the spot. Forget about appealing to the tech elite, she says. We have to invade the culture. Find allies where we can, and build an army of programmers focused on our shared humanity.

Ellen Ullman and Manoush will be in conversation at Housing Works Bookstore on Tuesday, September 26th. Come see them in person, buy some books, and get tips on storming the gates IRL. 

About that stock photo: We had a lot of laughs about all the absurd photos of women and computers. But it?s a real problem when all the images are of white women looking confused when confronting a keyboard, or when photos like this one are called "Cute businesswoman angry with PC." The team behind #WOCinTechChat took on this issue a couple years ago, organizing a collection of stock photos of women of color doing technology right. That project has now moved over to Buffer?s Pablo site, and the images are still available for your use any time you need a photo of any human in tech. 

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Eavesdropping On Epiphany

José Cruz is a college student, research scientist, and phone power-user. He spent 6 hours in one day on his screen. So he wanted to cut back, make more time for research, reading, and mental drift.

We gave José a copy of Manoush's new book, Bored and Brilliant: How Spacing Out Can Unlock Your Most Productive and Creative Self. The book has a week of challenges, and José did them all.

He recorded the journey. It wasn't easy, but boy, was there a payoff.  

Plus, seventh grade teacher-turned-neuroscientist Mary Helen Immordino-Yang explains why José's week of struggle and revelation makes total neurological sense. And what we can all learn about the link between single-tasking and innovation.

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Attention Please

Today, the first book to be born out of a crowdsourced podcasting movement - our movement, dear listeners - is here.

In 2015, tens of thousands of you joined me in an experiment. Could we separate from our devices just a bit, and turn them from taskmaster to tool? Could we make space for boredom, and let the brilliance in? Together, we found the answer. YES.

Enter Bored and Brilliant: How Spacing Out Can Unlock Your Most Productive and Creative Self. Today, we connect with Liam and Vanessa, who took part of the original challenge, to hear the surprising places the last two years have taken them.

Plus a new conversation with tech-star and NTS friend Tristan Harris, a designer once tasked with sucking your eyeballs to the screen. Now, he?s fighting the good fight to reclaim your brain.


I?ll be signing books and engaging in some lively discussion around boredom at the Strand in Manhattan this Friday, Sept. 8. Fittingly, with my longtime friend and radio mentor Brooke Gladstone, host of On the Media.

And to kick off my virtual tour, because we can?t forget the Internet, I?ll be on Reddit earlier that day. Send me questions through /r/podcasts at noon. I?ll be @manoushz. I?m excited to see your usernames and actual faces. 


To celebrate the book launch we made Bored and Brilliant phone backgrounds. For reminders to look up, space out, and wander toward brilliance. Download (and share!) now... 

(Sahar Baharloo)



(Sahar Baharloo)



(Sahar Baharloo)




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Refresh Your Mind

This week, Manoush?s book - the book that started with you, listeners - hits the shelves.

To encourage you to #GetBored and find brilliance, we made a weird earworm. It's an interview about the history of boredom... sound-designed to help you space out. With historian Peter Toohey, and some very soothing, meditative music.

Our senior producer Kat kept saying she woke up from the episode, every time she listened. Take an audio nap with us. It'll make you happy, we promise. 

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Bonus: Behind the Scenes at TED


A few months ago, Manoush traveled to Vancouver to tell the story of Bored and Brilliant on the TED main stage. And yes, it was big, and nerve-wracking, and totally exhilarating. Listen for her behind-the-scenes memories, and then watch the talk here.

Oh, and pre-order the Bored and Brilliant book if you haven't already. Because full transparency: algorithms love pre-orders, and more means the book might make it to Amazon's homepage. Which means more wacko experiments for us to do together in the future.  

We want to hear from you (as always).

If you did the Bored and Brilliant project in 2015, what's the one thing that sticks out in your mind two years later? Maybe you made a change to your phone habits? Maybe you watch a pot of water boil when you need to solve a problem in your life? 

I want to know what continues to resonate most with you. For those wacko experiments to come. Share a memory, a story, a tip with us. Record a voice memo and email it to [email protected]

Don't forget to binge our Save the Planet five-pack, if you haven?t already. Whale poop, giant vacuum cleaners, hard-shelled plants - it?s a weird and wonderful world out there. And in your feed.

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Save the Planet! Part 1: I'm Gonna Take My Clothes Off

This is part of our five-episode pack on how science and technology can fight climate change. With better air conditioning, more whale poop, souped-up plants, and a giant vacuum. If all else fails, planet B. With David Biello, science curator at TED, author of The Unnatural World: The Race to Remake Civilization in Earth's Newest Age, and contributing editor at Scientific American.

It?s August. It?s hot, and no, you?re not imagining things, it is getting hotter. But whatever New York Magazine says, we can still save the planet. And technology can help.

We kick off our five-part series with a look at one technology the planet can?t live with, and humans can?t (or won?t) live without. Air conditioning. As the planet heats up, we?re blasting it in more places, and more often. Which heats the planet more, so we need more AC, and around and around. But there is a better way. Thanks, in part, to the internet of things. And a little tweak from you. 

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