Rob Reid, Bestselling Sci-Fi Author


Cool Tools Show 085: Rob Reid

Our guest this week is Rob Reid. Rob is the New York Times bestselling author of novels including Year Zero and the freshly-released After On. A longtime entrepreneur, he founded Listen.com, which created the Rhapsody music service. Years ago he was a Fulbright scholar in Cairo, and he still speaks better Arabic than you’d think.

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Show notes:
“[Trint] is a transcribing service. … So what happens is you upload your conversation … you hit a button and it thinks for a few minutes, and it transcribes it voice-to-text…And then you click anywhere in that transcript, and it starts playing at precisely that moment… [It’s] dynamically linked to the conversation. You click on a word, and it starts playing there. And you cross words out. Like for instance, let’s say somebody “um-ed” a few times, or they stammered, or they said something and they didn’t like the way they started and they said it again. You cross out that stuff that wasn’t meant to be there. And it’s not professional editing quality, but you hit the play button and it skips that stuff, so you end up getting a very, very, very rough cut of what your editor might create.”
Zoom H6 Six-Track Portable Recorder ($350)
“This thing is very rugged. It’s a beautiful piece of industrial design. It’s got a very nice heft to it. It will take up to six inputs with four XLR jacks … basically you can patch in four microphones of any arbitrary quality that you happen to have access to. It takes SD cards, so you can go up to 128 gigs and have gazillions of hours of capacity. The battery life is good. It’s about 20 hours on a few AAs, which is neat … I’ve been lucky enough to conduct six of the seven interviews I’ve done so far face-to-face … and so being able to field produce and get out there and bring a couple microphones with me and this tiny but magnificent piece of electronics and get something that is near-studio quality is very, very precious for me. It’s about the size of a guitar pedal or a chunky glasses case. It’s really, really portable.”
“So instead of using the built-in Apple player, which I think is okay-ish at best, I use something called Downcast … It allows you to listen up to 3X speed with a lot of granularity as to how fast it is. … I’m sure others have come up with a term. I call it “fast listening.” And it is particularly important to me as a podcaster right now because I have this need to listen to lots of stuff, but I think it can be valuable for anybody. … We need our downtime and our zen space and time to just reflect, but we all have many hours of stuff to do each week where our brain is way too engaged to allow true creative thought or deep relaxation, yet nowhere near enough engaged to be anything other than bored, whether it’s doing dishes, packing, walking the dog, exercising, walking through airports, the whole bit.”
After On
About After On ($19)
“After On is my second work of fiction … and this new book is set in the world that I know so well. It’s set in an imaginary start-up, set in present-day San Francisco. So it’s very much about the entrepreneurial world and the way that we do entrepreneurship and start-ups today in Silicon Valley, but at the center of the story is a rather diabolical social media company called Phluttr, and it kind of embodies everything that’s wrong with social media dialed up by maybe about 20%. And this’ll sound like a spoiler but it’s really not, because you’ll see it coming from page one, but about midway through the book Phluttr attains consciousness. But rather than going all Skynet and trying to kill us all, it takes on its character from that which it is, which is a social network, so it basically becomes a hyper-empowered, super-intelligent 14-year-old brat.”