Today, I’m joined by my friend Trung Phan! He’s multi-talented, funny and smart, a great writer, podcaster, and just overall good dude 👍
In this conversation, we cover a lot of things from the Trung Expanded Universe, from the network effect at companies like Twitter/X and Facebook to Chernobyl and partying in Vietnam, we talk about creating online and how he got so good at solving the Twitter puzzle, what we learned from Rick Rubin and our mutual love of Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Christopher Nolan, writing a newsletter, doing a podcast, how AI is changing things and why he’s building Bearly.AI, and how ambitions of becoming a screenwriter morphed into something else thanks to the permissionless internet.
I had a lot of fun recording this, and I hope it translates when you listen! 💚 🥃
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Here’s the podcast with Bill Simmons that Trung recommends about 45 minutes into our conversation:
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It’s a mix of long-form features about various companies, products, technologies, entrepreneurs, and funny short-form memes and jokes.
The same issue could cover both the science and engineering that went into making iPhone glass more shatter and scratch-resistant using space-age tech AND a meme about wealthy vampires and compound interest.
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🤖 Raw Machine Transcript 📃
Liberty: Trung my friend. Liberty. Thank
Trung Phan: you for joining me. How's it going, buddy? Good. How are you? I'm good for the listeners. I came 20 minutes late for this interview. Just by the good grace of your personality, you're letting it slide. You were trying to run
Liberty: on the beach. That sounds much better than a podcast.
Yeah. I'm just picturing like a Baywatch type of situation. Slow motion.
Trung Phan: I think the noon Eastern PT must be the most mistake laden scheduling thing. I guarantee if you do a pie graph or whatever, the pie thing, a pie diagram of how often the calls are missed, it's the noon and the 9 a. m. noon ET, 9 a. m. PT.
Confusion everywhere. Wouldn't be
Liberty: surprised. Like your brain's not fully woken up
Trung Phan: yet. Cause I'm thinking what sicko wants to have a podcast at lunch? That doesn't make any sense, right? So like you're having podcasts at a lunch hour right now. Whereas in my eyes, if it was Noon P. T. would have been 3 p. m.
Eastern for you. So anyways, I'm boring the listeners.
Liberty: So many things to talk about because I think like me, you have so many different interests, but I want this to be the exploration of the Trung expanded universe. So I want to start with the origin story. Just for some context, so last weekend, I was in Ithaca with MBI and his wife and they're from Bangladesh and I learned so much about Bangladesh.
But the cool thing there is that I think I learned so much about The U S and North America through their eyes, right? It's like the David Foster Wallace thing about this is water, right? The fish doesn't see the water anymore. So sometimes when you have an external perspective culture, like you can learn about your own culture.
So that's a super interesting angle to me. So I'm curious to know about your own experience with Vietnamese culture, both in Vietnam and the expat community, all that kind of good stuff.
Trung Phan: Yeah, a hundred percent. So first of all, I've listened to MBI on your podcast and there's no way I'm going to be able to reach that bar. It's high, man. He sets the bar real high. He was dropping so much knowledge on that Facebook episode, the meta one recently. What I will say is MBI moved from Bangladesh to North America, right?
He grew up there.
Liberty: Yeah, he moved in 2016, I
Trung Phan: think, 2017. I'm definitely different. Different in the sense of, so my parents were Vietnamese refugees to Canada. So I was born in Canada and I guess the tension that I went through that was different was that my father was a doctor and my mom took care of four kids and they just had no complaints from me.
Roof over my head, food on the table. We lived in progressively better neighborhoods. But the point being. It wasn't like they had a lot of social connections or cultural know how. The fish out of water, I guess, for me growing up was the fact that I just had to figure out everything on my own when it came to North American culture.
And the way they kind of allowed that to happen was, I mean, we would go to Blockbuster every Friday, right? Like that explains a lot. Yeah, I watched so many movies growing up. It's not to say that they were like not doing their responsibilities. It was like, they're just like, okay, we need them to be westernized them as a meme at three siblings.
So they put us in all afterschool activities that they could possibly think of to let us consume so much Western media in terms of blockbuster while letting us watch TV, always buying us the newest consoles. When Super Nintendo came out in 92, like I got that, I got the Sega Genesis, I got the Sega CD.
Liberty: Oh, you had both. Only
Trung Phan: the lucky ones. I had them all. I think it was mostly my mom at home. My dad was OBGYN. So the running joke in Western Canada is if you're a Vietnamese kid in Western Canada, in Calgary or Vancouver, like there's a 99 percent chance my dad gave birth to you. Like thousands of kids, Vietnamese kids, he gave birth to while we grew up in Calgary and Vancouver.
I'd say like, that would be kind of how my background or my family's background in Vietnam affected me growing up is like, they just weren't aware of what Western culture was. They were happy to give us these avenues. And I don't know if that was the best way to do it, but I don't know what choice they really had, right?
Like, especially if my mom was at home taking care of four kids. I have one kid and it's already hard enough, right? I can't imagine like how difficult it was for her. It wasn't like they had a lot of friends. It's like all the friends were. The non Vietnamese refugee friends that my parents did have were from the medical community because my dad was a doctor.
So those were the people that he knew. They helped us out a lot. A lot of people definitely helped our family and other Vietnamese families. But definitely, To answer your question, that was my memory. I've kind of grown up in Canada, so I know the Vietnam part when I moved there in my early twenties is a little bit different, but I'm happy for you to interrogate me on what I just said.
Liberty: I'm also very curious about your Canadian experience because you moved a lot from basically from one coast to the other, which. As a Canadian, like sometimes I talk to American like Jim, right? And he's been in every province, he's traveled all around Canada. I'm like, yeah, I've been to kind of Quebec and Ontario.
I haven't moved around that much. I'm curious how much difference you've seen in the cultures of the different parts.
Trung Phan: So I lived in Montreal for five years. I lived in Calgary for nine years and the rest was in Vancouver.
I've been to Toronto a ton, obviously. My old man actually has been. The entire country. So after the fall of Saigon, my father was able to get to New Zealand because the New Zealand, Australian governments had assisted the United States. Well, assisted is however you want to look at the Vietnam war, right?
But they were working with the United States and it was pretty clear in 74 that the South was probably going to fall. So the New Zealand doctors that my dad had worked with in Saigon, so my dad was a young surgeon during the war. They got him to the university of Auckland to restudy medicine so we could get into the Commonwealth.
So basically he's restudied medicine at Auckland. And now when he ended up going to Canada, you only have to take a couple tests to transfer your medical degree. But he ended up on the East coast, but I have spent time on both sides. And I mean, you know, the East coast, well, they're just so different. The parts of Canada are so different.
I don't know if you've read the book about, I think it's called the six countries, but it basically describes the United States, right? The United States really is like five or six different countries. Totally. The Northeast is its own country. The West coast is its own country, Texas, Florida, kind of their own countries.
And we kind of see this now. And it's often when we talk about the culture wars, obviously the flyover States, it's kind of its own thing too. Same as Canada, what a lot of people don't realize, but Canada, it's obviously the second landmass, second biggest country in the world, but there's almost less than people live in California.
It's like 40 million people here. I think it's probably on par with California in terms of population. And then the other stat that I mean, you obviously know about, I don't know how many listeners know is like 90 percent of the country lives within a hundred kilometers of the U. S.
Liberty: border. Yeah. Canada is like a 1D country, right?
Everybody living under the line at the South, while the U. S. may be a smaller landmass, but it's a 2D country, right? There's people all around.
Trung Phan: So what I will say is like, totally different. Vancouver really is just, it's hard to describe. It's just, I think outdoorsy is a good word. The thing that I always tell people is if you like to go to the beach and the mountains, like you want to surf and like snowboard on the same day, you can do that.
There aren't that many places in the world that you can do that. Vancouver, obviously you can do that. Obviously huge Asian influence here. Not to say that Toronto is like half non white. So I think it is half it's close, but anyways, the whole point is like, it's not like being primarily Asian in Vancouver is unique, but the thing that isn't unique is obviously Montreal or in Quebec, Montreal is not even representative of Quebec.
Montreal is its own thing, especially where I live, which is like Anglophone near McGill university, whereas the rest of Quebec is truly its own thing. So that would be my answer to your question. I'll just say they are completely different. That's how I'd remember it.
Liberty: And then later in your twenties, you went back to Vietnam and I'm very curious about that too.
Something that I often hear from immigrants is that you can't feel 100 percent home in the new country. It depends, right? If you're born there, it may be different. But if you come there, you're not 100 percent home. But if you stay there long enough and you go back home, then you don't feel 100 percent home back home either.
You're always a little bit out of sync with both cultures. And so I'm curious how it was for you to live in Vietnam. But also, I don't know if it's just me, but I feel like probably a lot of people their External view of Vietnam, if they've never been, is super outdated. Full Metal Jacket is a great movie and Platoon and all that, but all these wartime movies, that's not at all the modern Vietnam.
So I've been trying to read about it, learn about it, but I feel like it's a country that I know very little about. And so I'm curious, how is it living there for you?
Trung Phan: The Western perception of Vietnam is the Vietnam War. What's interesting, to answer your question specifically, is like, within Vietnam, what people don't realize is that the Vietnam War It's not the most important thing because Vietnam has thousands year long history and the biggest antagonist during that period is China.
So like today, the Vietnam war is not what defines Vietnam. If you were to look at the different governing bodies that have guided Vietnam through the thousands of years of its history, it's like it's China has always been key consideration, right? In fact, China's last land war was in 1979, and it was when they invaded Vietnam.
So they came down through the Chinese Southern border, the Northern border of Vietnam. It had to do with the Khmer Rouge and the Cambodian regime that China was propping up. But Vietnam, basically the communist Vietnam regime basically took out the Khmer Rouge and that was the last true land war that China had.
So it just speaks to the idea of The Vietnam war, which is how Western media and Hollywood, you know, I talked early about how my parents let me go to Blockbuster. Yeah. That was like Hollywood defining the stories of, in this case, the Vietnam war and the way you describe it, Vietnam itself. So like Deer Hunter, Apocalypse Now, Born on the Fourth of July, Platoon, Full Metal Jacket.
There's no speaking roles for Vietnamese people in any of these films. It's almost entirely the Western actors speaking. And when there are Vietnamese speaking parts, they're either killing somebody, murdering somebody, or getting raped or murdered. It's not obviously representative. What's interesting, actually, is I have a book might be on the shelf.
I'm not going to look, but the way Hollywood portrays Canada also. Has led to the perception of Canada as a place where there's just Mounties, bacon, and maples. So he did a study of all the Hollywood portrayals of Canada, and this is where this perception of Canada comes from. But whereas you're a Canadian, I'm Canadian, like we have obviously a much more nuanced take about Canada is the world knows Canada.
Hollywood media, honestly, it's not just unique to Vietnam and the Vietnam war where this happens. It's like Hollywood really controls how much of the world looks at places don't get a lot of coverage, which is why obviously in Canada, quite controversially, sometimes you have that X amount of Canadian content.
I think Netflix has a 500 million fund that they have in Canada for the right to distribute content here. They have to make X amount of Canadian content. And this is a roundabout way of saying. The perception of Vietnam is completely not what it is. It's how you said is like, if you were to go now, it's, it's quite modern, not nearly as modern as like Seoul or Tokyo, probably 20 years behind those cities in East Asia, but totally different.
And something while I did live there that people did say, and I found interesting was, so Vietnam is actually more capitalist than America is in the sense of like, you can get things done with money. This insinuates corruption, but as in, you can actually get red tape moved away. Whereas America, everybody complains about is that everybody can has a veto.
Now, like if you try to build a new building in San Francisco, it's impossible because the local government has a veto. This board has a veto, like this school has a veto. So for people that work. In Vietnam and have access to money and like connection to the VC, the Vietnamese communist party. And not to say I agree with any of this, but it's like, there's this perception where you can get more things done because you can just kind of grease the wheels with money.
And the last thing I'll say about this before I throw it back to you is like, I think Tyler Cowen or Peter Thiel has talked about this, right? It's like at a certain level of development, you should expect corruption because corruption basically means that there's development happening. and there's reasons for things to be corrupt about.
If there was no development, of course there wouldn't be any corruption. There's no money, there's no pot. There's no grief to be had. Yeah. What I would say to answer the question specifically is that Vietnam is much more modern than people probably expect because their idea of it is literally like a 1970s capsule of a war.
Liberty: NBI was telling me that in Bangladesh the euphemism for bribes in Bengali translates to speed money. It's like, oh yeah, you can do that, but... I'll need some speed money to make it happen. You have to pay speed
Trung Phan: money everywhere. I love that. In Vietnam, it's called coffee money. I've been pulled over in Vietnam on my motorcycle.
One of my cousins told me, it's like, if you ever get pulled over, just say, do you need coffee? Have you had your coffee today? So I go like, in my broken Vietnamese, I'm like, have you had your coffee? And they're like, no, I'm like, okay, here, here you go. Here's some here. Enjoy your coffee. And that was kind of how we didn't get a speeding ticket.
So very similar to MBI.
Liberty: For the listener, there's a book I read a little while ago. I don't remember the title exactly, but it's by Lele Ayslip. She's a Vietnamese woman who lived through the war as a, basically as a villager. And after that, she became a refugee to the U. S. And it's basically the story of her life, but seen from both perspectives.
And she does that thing where she can contrast both sides very well, because she has lived in both cultures. It's very well written. I think there's a movie made about it. I don't know if it's any good. Heaven and Earth? Yeah, that's it. Oh, that's a dark
Trung Phan: movie. She wrote two books. It's a dark movie. But the book is dark too.
Yeah. But to your point, that's much more representative. It shows her fish out of water experience. And now that you mentioned that book, that story in that film, I think Tom Lee Jones is the actor in that film. That's kind of probably representative of my parents experience coming to North America is like truly fish out of water and less so for me.
I don't even remember those periods when we were quote unquote fish out of water. Like I don't remember the mid eighties or the late eighties when I was growing up, right. I was too young when my parents were truly having their struggles trying to integrate into new society. I think Vietnam's interesting.
The last thing I'll say about that is the running joke is it's always five years away. So every time you ask somebody, he's like, when's Vietnam going to break out? There'll be like in five years. So they've been saying that for decades now. It's like Linux on a
Liberty: desktop. So changing gears a little bit, the next thing I am very curious about is your online writing and starting with Twitter, because I think when I first followed you on Twitter, I'm like, Oh, this guy seems interesting.
I think you had like, I don't know, 8, 000 followers or something. Add more, right? It's like, Oh, And then I turn around and yeah, you have a 200, 000, 300. You've clearly found a way to write in a way that resonates very well, that travels very well. Obviously it's funny, it's interesting, you have a mix of all these elements from your personality, right?
It feels very authentic, it feels like you're following your curiosity. I'm curious, what is Twitter to you or X or whatever? Is it a puzzle to figure out? Is it kind of a game? Is it just for fun? And it kind of became its own thing, but it was an accident. I'm curious how you think
Trung Phan: about it. I love how you called it.
Is it a puzzle game? I looked at it as a game. People have talked about it before. Twitter is any other digital distraction before Twitter. I was playing fantasy sports and losing money on fancy sports. You're much more successful this as a personal investor, but I was an awful, I was like an awful day trader, but like using the medium of day trading to get the same dopamine hits that I used to get with fantasy sports.
And then before that. I actually haven't played games in ages, but like before I was a huge, GTA was kind of the last one that I finished A through Z GTA three, like 15 years ago. So I've always had digital distractions and Twitter to me was just like, Oh, this is the next level of that. But it also gets to marry with something I've enjoyed.
I've always liked writing and primarily I like humor. I've always known that Twitter was, you know, a place run by comedians and witty people with brevity wins the day. That was kind of the platform of Twitter versus like Instagram. You gotta be good looking to win on Instagram, but on Twitter, you gotta be funny and be witty.
I do regret not going on Twitter earlier because it's always been what I enjoy. And I guess. Other people enjoyed or a certain segment of the audience enjoyed what I had to say, but it definitely was a game to me, similar to a lot of people. It was like during the pandemic, I was like, Oh, what else am I going to do?
So I had all this time and like stay at home orders the whole nine. And I'm just like, Oh, this game like seems winnable in the sense of I saw what was doing well, quote unquote, well, getting engaged, man. Like I could probably do that, but actually put more effort behind it. I know that a big frustration with Twitter now is, especially since they did the monetization stuff is that the meme accounts have just completely taken over.
Reposting memes and not to say that I've never reposted a meme or found a piece of content that had gone previously viral, but that's like all these accounts are doing. But it goes back to the point, it's like the game earlier called 2020 was, can you write decent stuff? Obviously people make fun of the thread boys.
I'm not gonna lie. I've been guilty of doing some of the corniest stuff possible. I think I got off that train much earlier than some other people. I'm like, ah, I don't necessarily want to tie myself to like, I never did like here are 30 things that you don't know about Google search. I know to some people there is no difference, but I think they're just, in my mind, there's layers of where it's willing to go.
Liberty: Execution matters so much. The same format can be total shit or amazing, depending how you execute it with the actual content. I think people judge things by the container a bit too much. And so it's easy to lump everything in the same bucket. But if I'm actually entertained if I learn something, it's like, that's pure value for me.
I have no problem with that. The problem is when it's purely a waste of time or the 50th time I see it or whatever, right?
Trung Phan: Exactly. So to answer your question, I did look at a game and I thought I could do well on that particular game. And it turns out that I don't even know if doing well, some people might disagree with this, maybe the end goal isn't just to have a big audience or whatever, but it has opened up opportunities and I've been able to meet people like you.
I mean, I remember early, like we've been exchanging for years now, just back and forth. We've zoomed separately from this, just we chatted just completely casually. And got to know each other. So certainly the benefits were huge. I think a lot of things have changed. Cause I think the last two years, it got a little bit insane.
People saw it to your point though, that container could build you an audience and people were just building audience for the purpose of having an audience. That's fine. I don't, I'm not going to begrudge anybody. There's definitely other ways to push it, having that audience that are beneficial. And if some people don't want to do them, it doesn't bother me at all.
I've chosen probably go more down that route and you know, I'm very happy about it. Once again,
Liberty: there's no single Twitter. People are like, oh, Twitter is this, Twitter is that. It's like Facebook. Your feed is very different from someone else's feed. And Twitter, if you curate it very, very well, you only follow certain people, you block or mute, whatever.
Like you can create something that's very high signal to noise and you can get a lot out of it. And because Twitter is so based on the interest graph instead of the social graph, social graph would be like, oh, family, friends, people are close or more Facebook style. But the interest graph is kind of new.
It used to exist before Twitter and like forums, right? You join a forum about music, about cars or computer nerds or whatever, right? You find your topic and you can kind of network there. But Twitter was the first thing where like all of these different interests. Verticals are kind of like all in the same pot.
You stew them together for a while and you can find people across them or create new niches in between. So even inside of Fintwit, there's a bunch of subcategories of, well, you have the value guys here, the traders there, the crypto bros there and all that kind of stuff, but this interest graph. I think it's kind of like the only way of finding a bunch of, some of my closest friends today.
If I remove that from my life, I'm not even sure how I would have met Jim or MBI or all these people, right? You. It's been extremely powerful in that way. But the people who love to crap on Twitter, this hellscape of whatever the line is, I'd be very curious to open up their phone or whatever and look at their timeline.
Because it probably doesn't look like mine or yours. Sometimes it's what they call a user error. You're just using it wrong,
Trung Phan: I know that you're giving threads a more serious look. I love your thoughts on threads, actually. What has it been launched two months now? So yeah, it's been out for two months, I think 4th of July.
Liberty: Yeah. The thing I wrote quickly for people who haven't read it is basically that it may have been too successful too quickly in the longterm. It may not matter that much, but basically most of the time there's kind of like an order in which things go. You have the early adopters who come in when the thing is not quite done.
Some features are missing. Some stuff is kind of wonky, but. Early adopters, they don't care, they're used to it. And they were going to kind of build the social infrastructure of the place. They create the norms of the moors and the feel of the place is created mostly by these people. And then later adopters came in.
And at some point, like the big middle of the bell curve comes in, but there's already a bunch of stuff there. There's already some funny accounts and some interesting educational stuff and whatever. People can find what they want. But Trez was so successful that basically everybody jammed in through the door in like a week.
And a bunch of the later adopters just kind of looked around and it's like... My feed is only a bunch of crappy influencers and nobody's here. So I think a bunch of people's first impression was much worse than it would have been if they had come like three or six months later, it may not matter ultimately like in the longterm because it's built on the Instagram graph and like meta so many levers to pull to kind of bring back.
People that left. I don't know. I think it may be the first time that I see a social network just be so successful that there's a kind of backlash at first. Do you still use it? Yes,
Trung Phan: but. Be honest, man. I saw the IRA. Yeah,
Liberty: no, not as much as first. At first I was starting to cross post most things, see where the engagement was, kind of the reaction, see.
It was a way to get a feel for it. And now it's maybe like one third or one fourth of the time that I'll post on both sides. But I've had some good interactions there. The volume is much lower, but the quality is high. It's promising. But the thing is, I feel like a bunch of people have moved on. Some communities from Twitter, they've just left Twitter.
A lot of tech Twitter and Apple Twitter is now like on Mastodon or whatever. A bunch of cool people went to BlueSky at first, now they're probably on Threads. But the financial people seem to have stuck to Twitter. So even if Threads gets a bunch of traction for a bunch of sub communities, if my main one is stays on Twitter, I'll probably just stay
Trung Phan: on Twitter.
There's two things that I'll flag. The one thing I read the most, I'd love your thoughts on this. I think a lot of the most astute commentators are like, listen, you don't want to build a social network. And it's a whole thesis is we hate this other one. As in like, if your entire reason for existing is that we are the anti Elon, that's not a long term thing.
So I think that's one. The other one is, I think Compound wrote this is Compound 248. I know also you're friendly with Compound is he called it this is like the final boss. Network effect challenge. It looks like Twitter has, our ex has survived the thread threat early on. That first week, I actually went, I'm like, Oh, it looked bad.
It felt very, very like serious slash existential. But then after like three days, I'm like, Oh, I totally forgot about it. I don't even think about it
Liberty: anymore. We forget, but that was around the same time that Twitter was like limiting how many tweets you could see and
Trung Phan: limiting everything. So it felt nothing is ever as bad as it seems or as good as it seems.
Right. It's like one of those situations, man, Twitter's network effect is unbelievable, man. It's like, not to say that it's truly invisible, but it has been resilient. I think the media perception of Twitter and the one that a lot of people think is not nearly as bad as it is. Obviously everything's turned to 11, but there has been a lot of changes.
But you know what? At the end of the day, and I've noticed, I mean, the algorithm, it has changed a lot. I've had to roll the punches and I'm not annoyed. A lot of people are like a lot more annoyed by it. I just don't get that raw love. I honestly don't care as much as people with like 10, 000 followers will be complaining about how the algo has changed.
Listen, most people in the content game know this. It's like you're on rented land with social networks, build podcasts, build newsletters. That's always been the idea. It's like you can't get that upset. So I've been very measured about all that. I don't know what your thoughts are about whether or not the network effect has been super resilient.
Liberty: It reminds me of a different time when Google decided to attack Facebook with Google plus and both Google founders were like, everything at Google is going to be measured on social. Now it's going to be integrated into everything. And there was a Google plus button to log in. Every part of Google, they tried everything to attack Facebook, which at the time was much smaller than now, and they couldn't.
I always stay with me as like, okay, these network effects, they cut both ways. If you kind of lose it, the way kind of Myspace or whatever lost it, it can unravel very, very quickly. If something much better is over there and everybody for some reason can get over the coordination problem and kind of all move at once, you're done very quickly.
But if you're smart about it, I think all these modern social networks have learned a lot from past experiences. And so they're smarter about it. And not that Twitter has done a very good job, but even doing as badly as Twitter has done in some aspects, it's still super, super strong. So I don't expect it to go anywhere unless.
I don't know, what would it take? What would it take for me? It really would be for the people that I care about, that I'm interested in, for them to move somewhere else. But that coordination problem is so hard. The first test was really when ThreadLaunch, everybody on Fintwit probably created an account over there, right?
So that was the moment where the whole thing could have moved, but it didn't. Any time past that is kind of harder to do it all at once. There would need to be a
Trung Phan: catalyst. Every day it gets harder to coordinate. I think this is what like Compound was saying. That's the final boss test. That one moment. I love how he said it.
It's like to coordinate everyone. There actually was that. There was a 48 hour window. Get everyone over here. Takes one click. Everybody has an IJ. In theory,
Liberty: everybody tomorrow could just remove Google from their homepage and go on Bing. In theory, Google could lose a hundred percent of its users in one day, in theory, but it's never happening.
That's not how humans work. And so it's the same for the social networks and. When a social network has a different format, like let's say TikTok comes out and people can build, like, it's the Eugene Wee thing. People go over there and they start building new social capital from zero because it's a totally new format and different people with different skills can be the dominant kind of account on that platform.
But treads on Twitter are so similar that I feel like the main distinction will be treads will be like the Disneyland version that's friendly to advertisers and like happier and all that, which for certain sub communities will work fine. I don't know, FinTwit doesn't feel like a Threads type of
Trung Phan: place.
So actually talking about the network effect, the one thing I was actually watching when the Threads launch happened was how much NBA Twitter would go to Threads because sports is a real moat for Twitter. It is the second screen. You're watching football, European football, soccer, basketball. People are second screening basketball, specifically NBA.
Twitter is probably more important than the NBA in terms of creating narratives and content for the average consumer. The average consumer of the NBA is probably consuming much more on the social side, caring about the characters of the league than watching three games a night. I don't think that's even like a controversial statement.
So that is something which. It's quite unique to Twitter. So I was like waiting to see if that could change. To your point about the window, it might've been bad for Threads Launch to actually take out one of the strongest legs of Twitter, which is live sports in July. Cause that's a dog day of sports.
Not much is happening in July. all the major leagues are done except for baseball, which is kind of just starting or getting its first quarter of the season in. And there was no Olympics or world cup this year. To really test that second screen, which is what people do when they're consuming sports now, didn't even have the opportunity.
I think that window's gone now. There was a period where I saw some of my favorite NBA people going to Instagram because they all have big Instagram followings also. And then I've just kind of all seen them. They're all back and the season's starting football season, starting upcoming week, NBA starting in October.
It's like, they're all kind of back on Twitter. So I'd be interested to see. If that actually takes off on threads, cause that actually is a bit of a threat because that type of community, the real time stuff. I mean, you remember like Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram is like, yeah, we're not going to use our, was it hard news or politics.
That's what the playing field is for. It looks like they're trying to pick away like the sports and the foodie groups, but like the sports is also real time. If you're not architecting threads to be real time, how can it be for sports? And if you do architect it for real time, then you're bringing in the political trolls.
So there is an interesting tension that they've brought up.
Liberty: There's no perfect trade off. You always get some of the bad with some of the good. One thing I'm curious about, thinking about your Twitter account, now I'm seeing... You get replies from Elon Musk and a bunch of very influential people. Your inception ability is very, very high.
If you want to get an idea in someone's head, someone who could make it happen, you kind of can, right? It's like the great power comes great responsibility. So I'm wondering how you think about that. How, at first you were like shitposting for a few thousand people, but now it's like, I don't know, trying to convince Elon Musk to support nuclear power more publicly or something, but not in an overt way, but just bring the topic up or whatever.
I don't know. How do you think about the type of readers that you have now that.
Trung Phan: There was a time I'm like, Oh, I need to tailor when I started it and I wanted to grow. That was like really my North star. I'm like, okay, like we kind of talked about it. It's like, I know some of this might be cringe. Like I can feel a little bit.
Everybody's got that cringe sensor and you're like, Oh fuck. Am I really doing this? And then early in your journey, you're like, you know what, I'm willing to bite this bullet.
Liberty: The worst is when you know it's gonna work, but it's cringe and it's like,
Trung Phan: ugh. Yeah, you just know. I'll tell you one that's really salient is anything on BoredPanda, right?
You go to BoredPanda because their whole job is to get the most viral thing, right? So they'll just go to Reddit and they'll just filter for the most viral thing and then they'll put it on BoredPanda. com. Some of them are very entertaining. Some of them are just like, so cringe. You're like, Oh, but I know this is going to work.
And like, I've been guilty in the past of doing that, but specifically to answer your question, like, how do I think about content? And you said this when you were on the chat with Matt on the Colossus podcast, making media. I'm with you on this, man. It's my own personal interest. And it's 100 percent my own personal interest.
Now, the only filter I have, I will say I will apply a little bit of a filter being like. Okay, I can make this become a little bit more viral. Like I'll do the viral angle version of this. That's probably as much as I'll care about the audience. And that's still a little bit selling out. You're not really telling the best story.
You're trying to sell the most viral one. And I'm not crazy about that, but I'm getting better. And I think what I would say is like, I'm very much in your lane is like. It's really just true what my interest is and the best articulation of it I've heard is Rick Rubin in his book, the creative act. And then his various podcast.
I'm so happy this guy's doing a fucking podcast. Oh my, the Rick Rubin podcast is the best podcast in the world. It's the best podcast for creative people. It's unbelievable, man. It's just so good. I don't know how many episodes you listened to. So a couple of ones on this stuff, the John Mayer was amazing.
Trent Reznor was amazing. Phil Jackson was amazing. we've seen these images of Rick Rubin, just kind of these memes of him. He'll be in the studio with like Kendrick Lamar just lying down on a couch and like.
And then he'll like take a nap and like wake up and like mid nap will be like, Oh, that's the one. And then like people are like, that's a running joke, but that's truly his creative process. So you're listening to this podcast and you're getting a window into how he actually thinks this is his creative process.
He's literally just probing the guests and like getting them to reveal stuff. And you're just like, this is, he's showing us what, what he does. This is
Liberty: what he does. He's like a super fan, basically. When you're making decisions and you're trying to make something that's authentic to you, first you have to figure out who you are and be in the right zone, right?
So he's very good at creating that atmosphere for it. I don't know if you saw the Shangri La documentary, but the studio where everything is painted white, and they repaint after every artist, and it's like he's trying to create a kind of empty space where you can be yourself and creative, and that's one part of But the other part is you have to be a proxy for the listener, or the reader, or the viewer, or whatever. And he's an excellent proxy for that because he's a fan of the stuff, right? He really loves music. He really loves all that stuff. He's like a platonic ideal of a music fan.
Trung Phan: He's a professional fan is how he says it.
But what's interesting. So I'm going to answer your question now that we've just had a little love session on Rick Rubin. This is what he said. And he said this many times, he goes, you cannot create. With the audience in mind, that is a separate part of the creative process. It has a very good reason for that.
It's not about your own ego and like, Oh, I don't need to listen to anyone. He says, trying to guess what the audience wants, like the millions of people is like, it's impossible. It's an impossible task. He's like the things that I did not think would be the most successful became the most successful. The things that I thought would be hits did not become hits.
He's like, it's impossible to guess. Like, listen, some people are very forward looking, but for them to even say, Rick Rubin is. Arguably one of the top three most successful music producers ever. And he's saying, I cannot guess. So if he's saying that I'm like, okay, this guy knows what he's talking about. So he says, you cannot create for the audience because it's actually impossible.
It's like, you cannot be in the mind of a million different people. That's the first thing he says. The second thing he says, which goes back to your point is everyone is an artist. It's not just saying that as a platitude, he says, what art is. And you kind of touched on it is, do you have a point of view in the world?
Liberty lives in Eastern Canada, spends this amount of time looking at investments, spend this amount of time on various different interests. I mean, I love your YouTube recommendations and your newsletters, like the VFX stuff. I love all of them. This is your view. That's your art is your point of view on the world.
That's what your art is. Similarly, right? I'm a Vietnamese Canadian. My parents were refugees here. I grew up watching blockbuster and Adam Sandler movie. I wasted my twenties like getting drunk in Saigon. That's my point of view in the world. That's my art. No one else can have that. So the question then becomes, can you bring that point of view out, which is what this entire book is about.
So to answer your question, yeah, that's my job. And that's what I care about doing is I want to bring my point of view out. And what that means is I can't be worried about audience things. I don't even call them audiences. Thinking it's a useless task. I agree with 100%. There's no point in thinking like that.
I can guess. And I can package things and have a sign, a confidence band that it might be liked by people, but that's not what's driving it. What's driving it is my personal interest.
Liberty: Yeah. If it was possible, someone would just have albums with like 12 number one hits. Oh, exactly. Some filmmaker would only make blockbusters and some come close, but even some of the best ones.
If over career you make, I don't know, five, 10 big films, that's considered to be like super high batting average. I think you can kind of separate the two. You have to create for you what you really find interesting. And kind of like Tim Urban says, there's other Tim's out there. There's other people like you that will like that stuff.
But once it's created, then there's a kind of second step, which could be packaging it or distributing it or that part. You can also have some art and skill in how you do it. And I think you're extremely good at that part, but yeah, it does feel authentic. It feels like the stuff that you're really interested in.
And in my own scale, it's similar. I try to never. Decide of including something or not, because I think it's going to be popular because I would have made very, very different choices if I was trying to be more popular or monetize better or whatever. But at the end of the day, if you're spending all day thinking about that stuff, living in it, writing and thinking about it, I don't know.
I wouldn't want to create something super popular that I don't enjoy myself. That would be a terrible, almost a great
Trung Phan: tragedy. No, a hundred percent. You talk about the making media podcast. Yeah. It's longer to get the people to read your stuff. Versus lowest common denominator versus just doing, here's a funny, ask me anything, Reddit thread.
The people that do read, they're so sticky. They're going to be with you for life. One thing that I will say related to that last comment about creating content, what I do know for sure is this, the stuff that typically does feel like there's a correlation between the effort I put into something and it's quote unquote virality, or if it becomes something that people truly like, people can feel the effort.
I can't prove it, but I think people know when the effort is behind it. Well, I mean, you obviously know David and Ben from acquired and you've mentioned them a lot, but it's like when you listen to something they do, or like, obviously David too from founders is like, you know, the effort that has gone into this and then you almost like out of respect, you're like, they respect my time, they're condensing 50 hours of work into two hours.
I'm going to give them those two hours because they've respected my time to do that distillation. I
Liberty: have a theory about that, and it's kind of half baked, so I don't know how much sense it makes, but very quickly when you start to read or listen to something, there's a bunch of surprises. And for some of the best creators, most of the surprises are positive.
It's like, oh, it's even better than I expected. Because your brain tries to predict where it's going. Oh yeah, that story, they did a podcast about, I don't know, NVIDIA or, and you kind of know the story vaguely. It's like, oh, there's even more because, oh, they found something I had never heard of. Oh, and all the surprises are positive.
And that's the very best creator. It's like, it starts from a good point and they're polished and they express themselves well. And all the bases are covered on like the foundations, but then you keep getting surprises positively. While with others that don't quite have it, they could write about or podcast about the same topic, right?
The same facts, but the surprises are kind of negative. Oh, they forgot about it. Oh, there's a small mistake there. And this part is kind of too long and clunky and boring. And so that's what separates the very best. You keep getting surprised. David Senra is another great example, right? I've been listening to stuff for, I don't know, five years or something, six years.
He was really good back then and he keeps getting better all the time. I don't know. He does an episode about the same book you did back then. It's like, Oh yeah, I remember that book. It's like, it's so much better. It's you found new
Trung Phan: stuff. Cause it keeps tying and everything. Right. It's crazy, dude. I can't believe you've been on, actually I found about founders because of your newsletter.
What were you doing? How did you even find it? Five, six years ago. I have
Liberty: no idea. I tell Jim sometimes, if I could explain easily my process of finding stuff, you could make an algorithm for it. It could be outsourced easily. But because it's so opaque and weird and esoteric, it's like, I'm just
Trung Phan: wandering around.
I need to know how you found David's podcast, man. You need to dig in the crates and figure this out. That was like drafting Tom Brady in the seventh round. It's like, you're like five years ago, like, Oh, this is it. That's like Rick Rubin esque for tastemaking in terms of the podcast world. Think about it, man.
Liberty: about it. I don't know. I would have to do some forensics on my hard drive. I
Trung Phan: think, dude, you owe it to the Liberty newsletter to find out how you found David all these years ago. This is homework. I'm making a note. Yeah, you do that, man. I would love to know, man.
Liberty: The next thing I wanted to ask you about is I'm going to guess at an answer, right?
And tell me if I'm correct. But so you started the Substack too. The reason why I started my Substack basically is I read a Balaji post about how like if you're building something on someone else's platform, it could go away anytime. The platform could change, the rules could change. And like that's kind of building on Quicksand.
So it may be a great way to find people, to express your ideas, get feedback. You can do tons of super great stuff there, but you kind of never own it. And so having a direct relationship with people when I press publish, I know it's getting in their inboxes. Hopefully it doesn't go in promotions tabs or whatever, but there's other problems, but hopefully it's pretty direct.
Well, if I post something on Twitter. Who knows who's going to see it, especially if they're on the algorithmic timeline and not the following timeline. Did you start a Substack to kind of like move some of the people over to a direct relationship? Do you have more plans for it? Is it just the format that's different, like longer format?
I'm curious how you
Trung Phan: think about it. I work with Workweek. I don't know how familiar with the Workweek business model.
They've helped me a lot with growth and with the newsletter sending, but more specifically to your question about email. Yeah, it is like email is just totally different, man. I mean, we've talked about this, you know, this, that email relationship is just, I mean, you're in the inbox with family members and job offers and important coordinating.
Like you're doing a bachelor party, right? You're in that zone. That's what's happening in the email inbox. And somebody is putting you in their rotation in the inbox. They gave you permission. Exactly. I mean, it's very simple. I like long form writing. I can't express everything on Twitter X, even with the extended, like even now, like I'll do long tweets, but I know there's a sweet spot.
300 to 500 words is like the sweet spot for as long as you can go in those long tweets and still keep people on because they're obviously in a different mindset when they're scrolling. I've noticed they're willing to read them and people don't mind. It's like a 10 tweet thread, right? Which is about 300 words.
People are still willing to do the long tweets. It's funny because everybody's complaining about it's like, oh, it's supposed to be. Well, you still get the brevity stuff and you don't have to click see more, but that comes with the talent of a writer in terms of packaging. It's like, can you write the first 280 characters to make people want to click that, right?
It's just like anything. It's like headline writing. If you can do that good. If you can't, then it's going to get buried in the all go. But yeah, the newsletter.
Liberty: So when I started the newsletter, I had no idea what it would be. I just knew what I didn't want it to be. The obvious thing at the time would be, well, I mostly write about investment. I'm a full time investor. I'm just going to do analysis of companies and make recommendations, valuations. And so that seemed kind of boring to me.
So I tried to go as far away from possible that, which is why from the. Beginning, I had like science and tech subcategory and the arts. And anytime I write about a business, I mostly write about the fundamentals, the business itself, the products, the technology, not the stock and obstructing and the multiples and all that.
So I tried to get as far away from that, but it still evolved a ton just based on the format. It wasn't planned. But then the intros were at first just kind of like housekeeping. Oh, this happens. And now the intros are like. Another whole section where it's like more personal stuff or shower thoughts. So that became its own thing.
Yeah, you've been
Trung Phan: working out, man. You've been running. I've been following everything, bro.
Liberty: I often try to convince it because sometimes people come to me. Oh, I want to start this. The thing I always say is like, try to put as much of your personality into it as possible because there's this type of U curve where on one side, there's the big scaled media and you're never going to be that.
Never going to be the New York Times or whatever. Don't even try to sound like that because it's not the same. And on the other side, there's all this niche stuff that's very like trying to be authentic and very, very personal. And even if the goal is to educate and give utility, Like Ben Thompson, great utility in many ways, understanding better all these big tech businesses and strategy and all that.
But he puts enough of his personality into it that even if he's writing about a company that I'm not super interested in, right, I'm not going to invest in X, but I still care about his take on it as a person. I've been following him for, I don't know, since 2013 or something like that. Oh, a decade now, yeah.
The first time I heard him was on a podcast called Cubed, and it was three different bands on the same podcast. It didn't last very long.
Trung Phan: And then they did Exponential, right?
Liberty: Yeah, exponential and then Stratechery or Stratechery at first and then Stratechery.
Trung Phan: I'm so happy he turned those daily emails essays into a 10 minute podcast.
I listened to his podcast and I was just like, at 2x, man, you're ready. It's five minutes, even though I'm probably missing some of the nuance.
Liberty: It must be a lot of work to read it every day, but I bet it reduces churn a ton because otherwise. The emails pile up in your inbox and you start to feel guilty about it.
And you're like, ah, great point on subscribe. And if you can listen quickly while doing something else, it's perfect.
Trung Phan: Oh, I didn't think about that. It's like, it's probably a massive churn reducer. I would love for him to talk about that, actually. Yeah.
Liberty: Yeah. I'd be very curious about it because most people subscribe to him will kind of not lie to themselves, but they'll think like, Oh yeah, this is kind of a business expense, right?
I'm going to learn about this, but the reason they keep. Listening and the reading is probably just, I kind of like this guy. I've been following for a while and he's interesting. And he, so the entertainment value of what he does is probably bigger than the actual utility for most of his readers, even if they will never admit it.
I feel like my thing is kind of similar. Well, if you want to learn about all the stuff that I'm interested in, that's cool. Right. I'm going to point you to all the stuff I find interesting. And if we have similar interests. Cool, but at the same time, I want to create something a little bit more personal with the reader.
To me, it's much more interesting that way. When I write about whatever, working out or minimalist shoes or whatever, I get all these emails from people who try something. It's really, it becomes a two way conversation when you put some of yourself into it. And for readers who stick around a while and get to know you, it's like, I could maybe go somewhere else and get some of the same information, but like, it's missing something.
It's missing that personality part. And that's differentiated. It's
Trung Phan: missing liberty.
Liberty: The other thing I'm curious about about your newsletter is the format is very interesting because you tend to have this one big topic, this long essay, and then at the end there's more like quick hits and some funny tweets and some quick links out there.
And I'm curious how you think about it. It reminds me a bit of Berne Hobart. The diff has a kind of similar format, but maybe without the comedy or some of it. He's funny.
Trung Phan: Burn's got secretly got jokes. Oh yeah. He's always got these turns of phrases. He's next level. He's like, for me as a business writer, he's like on par with Matt Levine.
Burn is amazing. The quantity and quality is absurd. This guy is putting out six times a week. Everything is good. To your point, the main piece I tried to use is something that's a bit more evergreen, as in like, something that people will keep reading for a long time. Is that, that's kind of my thinking around that main piece.
But then, everything else that follows exactly what you said. It's just like, man, I just, I like memes. I like dumb tweets. One of the most replies I got in recent emails had nothing to do with the main, like, serious topic. It was about this stupid Breaking Bad joke that I had found on Twitter. I was walking through why it was like the interaction that could only happen on Twitter.
I don't know if you saw this. It's like there's two twins from Breaking Bad. The Mexican hitmen from the cartel. They each have accounts on Cameo. One charge is 99. The other one charges 499. So Cameo for listeners don't know is a celebrity website where you ask for shout outs. So you pay like 300 or in this case, 99 or 500, but these guys are twins.
So people like found this and like, wait, why is one twin worth five times more? But in the comments. The Twitter users are discussing what's going on here. And one guy's like, look how much harder the guy charging a hundred dollars is working. Like he's already made 50 grand. Whereas his brother is charging 500 has only made 10 grand.
And then the next guy's like, no, no, no, you got it all wrong. This guy's charging 500 to make the 100 look cheap. Everybody's buying the 100 ones. And then because they're twins, they're just splitting the responsibility. But here's the best part. One of the twins answered to that thread. All he posted was the gif of Walter White from Breaking Bad going, you got me.
You got me. Yeah, it was like the perfect Twitter only. This can only happen on Twitter. People arguing about something about, uh. Celebrity shout out company, and then one of the people from the company answers in the replies with a meme from the show that made him famous. It was perfect. That was like the most responses I've gotten in like ages, right?
So stuff like that. Man, like people like to be entertained and I think you said with Ben Thompson, like a lot of it is probably just entertainment at this point for a lot of people. I mean, Bill Simmons is the best example. He has incredible basketball knowledge, like truly incredible. And he has great pop culture knowledge and you do learn a lot of stuff.
But at this point it's just habit, man. Like I can't believe how much I look forward to listening to his podcast. I don't listen to all of them. Like I don't care about NFL that much. And I don't care about some other random topics he's into, but I look forward to his podcast, man. It's like, he's just been in my life for 15 years.
You're talking about habit forming? That's it. It's an incredible formed habit.
Liberty: I think Ben Thompson has kind of said he patterned his business on Bill Simmons. He's kind of like the OG of this type of online creator for the modern internet economy. And I don't even care about sports, but I still listen to the Rush Bowls and the Big Picture and a bunch of his podcasts.
He probably was the inspiration for some of the podcasts I did for like the last of us and severance and a bunch of film. Okay. Why shouldn't I do that? Like I'm interested in that. 100%. There's no limit on what you can talk about. The listeners or the readers or whatever, they have a bunch of different interests too, right?
It's not because one is about payment infrastructure that the other can't be about severance and they don't have to click on it if they're not interested, but why not? Why not? Everything in the same place.
Trung Phan: I'll tell you an insight that he had. That's amazing. I listened to him on the, how I built this podcast with Guy Raz, highly recommend people listen to that.
But his insight was this. He's like, so in the late nineties, and you kind of mentioned this with like the U shape of creators is like on one end is individuals. They'll never be as big as the other side, which is the New York times. But the New York times has such a formal voice. So Bill Simmons actually looked at it.
It's like, not only was there not even a U shape, there's just a one end is like formal analysis of sports. He's like, wait, there's like this whole other end where as an individual. I will be so biased. I'm not going to be unbiased. People will know I love Boston sports. Everything I read will be colored by my love of Boston sports.
So even people that hate Boston sports will hate read me. They'll read me to get upset, right? Like if you're a Yankees fan, you read Bill Simmons about Boston Red Sox just to get upset. Do you ever hate read? I hate read sometimes. So I'll love a movie and I'll read the one star reviews. Like every now and then I'll go to a movie I love and I'll read the one star review of it just like fucking rile me up.
It's so dumb, right? But this is how people are. They're combative and they're tribal. But his other insight, which I think links to how you said it kind of inspired you to do things. He's like, I want to write about sports, but I also want a massive audience. So... So what is it that people care about in the late nineties?
It was the wire and Sopranos. So he's like, okay, I'm going to find a way to write about NFL and the Sopranos at the same time. And what he did was he just took really famous quotes from season one of Sopranos or season two. And then he made those awards for players in NFL. And so now he gets both worlds.
He gets. The world of TV, HBO, prestige TV fans to actually want to read his stuff, but then he also gets NFL fans. So he made a Venn diagram and that's actually guided his process ever since. That's why he ties in so much pop culture into what anything he does, because he knows that the pop culture is a substrate, which will build the biggest audiences.
That happened in the late nineties, pre real internet took over audience, much more fractured now, but like. If Liberty were to do, here's an idea for you, let me do an awards with the Avengers only quotes for tech businesses that I tell you right now, that will bang pick 10 quotes and let's take one right now, take Thanos, like snapping his fingers, destroying half the market cap of a company that can be like Tim Cook taking out Facebook's advertising with their app changes.
Fuck. I might just write this now, man. I love this idea. We got to do it
Liberty: before this podcast comes out. That's all right. And basically a lot of the time doing something new means taking two existing things and creating something at the intersection of it. And because Bill was kind of authentic in his love for both sides, it works for a long time, right?
You can do it. If he was doing like cynically, like, Oh, how can I have a big audience? I'm trying to triangulate stuff. I don't think it will work. People would see through it. Authenticity is such a scarce thing in media in general. Everything sounds like bullshit, basically. The real human voice hasn't been heard in the media in a long time.
Radio was invented a long, long time ago, but the broadcasting voice was not a natural person talking to you. Until almost like podcasts and maybe some talk radio, people were craving that real, like, sitting around the campfire with someone and they become your friend. Your brain doesn't differentiate that my voice is coming through your.
And if you hear someone talking to you, like in a real conversational voice for hours and hours, tens of hours, hundreds of hours, over time, you have a real relationship with that person. And yeah, I think Bill was one of the early people who figured that out.
Trung Phan: Yeah, a hundred percent, man. I mean, this is why I talk radio.
I mean, you've seen the numbers. Like, we know how much Howard Stern gets paid. Like, I think he's making 50 mil a year. And radio too is like 10 times the size of podcasting in terms of advertising revenue. It's not small beans. And I think it's what you're talking about is people like that fireside kind of stuff.
It's like, I loved Jim Rome when I was growing up. He had a four hour radio show every morning. It was incredible. Looking back, I can't believe I gave this guy four hours of my day every morning. It was absurd. Yeah, there's something about it, man. People like the spoken word.
Liberty: Well, speaking of that, you do have a podcast, a very successful one that I think I've heard
Trung Phan: most.
I wouldn't say very successful, but we enjoy it. We enjoy doing it. We take it very un
Liberty: seriously. To me, it's successful. by how fun it is. And it does feel authentic. It does feel like three friends sitting around the campfire and shooting the shit. And I love how Every one of you has very different interests and personality, but it all gels very well together.
That's another thing I'm curious about. I've always done solo podcasting. Sometimes I have this envy, like I need, it would be fun to have a co host. I'm curious about that dynamic. Is it ever hard to get everybody on the same page? How's your experience been with the three headed podcast? Oh
Trung Phan: yeah, for sure.
So a dude with Bilal Zaydi and Jack Butcher, two British cats, all met on the internet actually. We're definitely friends now, like we talk about all the time and I love just telling jokes. I love just shooting the shit and like making stupid jokes and it's just a canvas for that. But what I think a lot of listeners do appreciate is.
It's exactly like you've been saying about Bill Simmons, man, is like, and Ben Thompson at this point now is like, the love is just entertainment, man. Just people want to listen and have a good time. The problem I find with a lot of business slash tech focus ones is very pedantic. Hey, we're gonna teach you XYZ or like, I'm so good at this.
It's like being self deprecating is extremely, extremely valuable. I wouldn't say it's a Canadian thing, but Canada is well known for comedy. Lorne Michaels. Actually, is Lorne Michaels Canadian? I'm pretty sure he is. But anyways, there's so many famous Canadian comedians that punch, we're talking about Seth Rogen, Martin Short, Jim Carrey, Ron Reynolds, Jim Carrey.
Per capita, if you were to look at, like, if you Googled right now, like, top comedians in the world, a disproportionate number of them are from Canada. And I think there's something about it. I think there's a bit of. The small brother syndrome with America, you know how we're like Canada is America's hat.
You have to be funny
Liberty: to get
Trung Phan: attention from the big brother. You have to be funny to get attention. And I enjoy humor, man. That's my big takeaway from the podcast with these guys. Like we enjoy doing it. We laugh a lot and we've never taken an advertiser. We've talked to advertisers and we've ebbed and flowed on whether or not we wanted it, which is really not the purpose of it.
It just didn't really matter to us. And we'll do it until we stop enjoying it. I mean, that's the truth. That's what we said. If at this point, you've never heard of Trung Phan, and you've never heard the Not Investment Advice podcast, and you've laughed once in the last 55 minutes with me and Liberty, please do try it out.
If not, I totally get it too. I'm not for everyone. I get it. The world's gonna go on, but that's my pitch. The
Liberty: link will be in the show notes. Check it out. It's very fun, and you get a good overview of a bunch of the stories of the week. But. in an entertaining way. It's never boring. It's never like a newsreader.
I recommend it. I like it. I appreciate you, buddy. Speaking of comedy, unless I'm mistaken, you wanted to be a screenwriter for TV. I'm curious about like the background of that and how that worked, but I'm also curious about how you're seeing that evolving because everything seems to be changing very quickly.
Like in the past decade with the streamers and it's very unclear where the pieces will fall in. Is now. Whatever you wanted to do on that side, you're doing it, but it's on Twitter and newsletters on podcasts. Is that replacing that dream or is that still something you want to do? I'm curious.
Trung Phan: answer your question. Yes, it is replacing. And I'll do a quick TLDR for listeners that are not familiar, which will probably be most of them. When I was living in Vietnam, as we discussed being a total ass hat in Vietnam, just to give you an idea, like my purpose of moving to Vietnam was like, I mean, 6, 000 to do construction after university, I'm like.
How can I stretch 6, 000 so I can party three nights a week? And going to Vietnam was like extremely high on the list. That's how family members in Vietnam. Like we haven't really discussed it, but like I never really integrated into Vietnam. Like I hung out with expats. I hung out with Vietnamese Americans.
I hung out with Caucasian people from France, Australia, and America. I hung out with Indian dudes that moved to Vietnam to create a restaurant in the backpacking area. I wasn't really hanging out with the locals. And it was something that you had mentioned discussing MBI. And his experience being an immigrant is like, you're never really here and you're not really there.
Right. You're kind of your own thing. Even when I'm living in Vietnam, I'm like, I'm not getting to know the locals as much as I should have, but going to Vietnam and being a tall ass hat. I think everybody in the early twenties, the majority of people, if you watch movies growing up, you're like, Oh, I'd love to be a screenwriter.
Right. I think this is a dream for a lot of people, but I tried to do it. And I actually ended up selling a script to Fox. Oh, nice. And the big lesson from that was this. A lot of people I knew at my age in the early 20s, they had gone to Hollywood to try to be a screenwriter. But the problem is you don't have any stories.
Like you have nothing to tell. Like you're just living your Hollywood
Liberty: life. It's like how bands, all their second and third albums are about touring because that's all they do by that
Trung Phan: point. Exactly. So like if you're living in Hollywood working for an agency, you're in the coffee room, like what stories do you have?
What are you telling? Whereas I kind of backdoored it. It's like, yeah, here's my story. I'm like this idiot. Parents sacrifice their life to move to Canada and North America. And then he goes back and he's just being a total idiot in Vietnam. Like that's my story. Fish out of water, reverse fish out of water.
And he's just like spending years in Vietnam. Expat communities are so fascinating. There's a certain hierarchy in Asia with expat communities. Like if you went to Harvard business school and you're an expat in Asia, that probably means you're in Tokyo or Hong Kong or Singapore working for Goldman. If you're in Southeast Asia as an expat.
This means you did not go to Harvard business school. This means that you were working construction, making 6k and wondering how you could blow it. There are tiers in East Asia. I mean, obviously Asia is not a monolith, but to a lot of people it is. But like the top tier cities, Seoul, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore, Tokyo.
You're living there. That means as an expat, you're getting extremely well paid and you're probably doing something of note. You're in Southeast Asia, you're in Cambodia, you're in Thailand, you're in Vietnam. And listen, I'm not dogging people doing this, but as a person, anecdotal experience is like, you're probably not the cream of the crop as an expat, as a foreigner, or you're not the most ambitious person in the world, which is fine too.
Totally fine. I'm not judging. I'm just sharing my experience. So yeah, I wrote a script there. The script was, it was The Fugitive meets Harold and Kumar set in Southeast Asia. Like that's the pitch. Every line in that movie would get me cancelled now. It was like, that was written in 2010, a totally different time.
I'd probably have to rewrite the entire thing. And I have over the years, but the TLDRs, we sold it. We thought it was going to get made a lot of issues around financing because Western studios don't actually want to finance directly because they know in Southeast Asia, there's a lot of bribes being paid and corruption.
So you have to find like local banking partners. There's a lot of things that ended up why I didn't get.
Liberty: So the money still ends up in bribe, but indirectly,
Trung Phan: right? Indirectly, like legitimately, like they need local partners, spend money, spend money, coffee money. But yeah, so I thought it was going to be a comedy screenwriter just 10 years ago.
I did end up working out, but kind of what you alluded to. Is circled it and came all the way back to what I cared about, which is. Comedy, trying to make people laugh, but now using the medium of Twitter and the business knowledge I gained over the years. Like I did my MBA, don't care about any of that stuff, but I can be funny about it.
And that's the value. It's
Liberty: perfect example of how the gatekeepers are going away because you're kind of doing what you want to do and you probably have much more personal freedom and independence and control of your time and basically your creation than you would have if you were some writer's room somewhere.
You're probably reaching I don't know, maybe a bigger audience, that's hard to know because a show can go big or get canceled after one season or a pilot, you never know. But you're kind of doing a lot of the stuff you want to do, but without anybody's permission now, which is a new thing. Not so long ago that it would be just impossible and there's so few spots and so they probably can treat people pretty badly until you become like a franchise kind of person.
No name, but I'm guessing that the early years as screenwriters are not probably as glamorous as people imagine.
Trung Phan: So you know that not only that, it's like five people are deciding my fate. It's like the producer, his assistant, they're deciding whether or not this happens. Now it's totally permissionless, right?
It's like I put it out there. People either like it or they don't like it. I'm fine either way. This is how I ended up writing for Bloomberg for a year. Like the editor found me on Twitter and like, Oh, I think this is a different voice and we'll do this. I haven't talked about this at all. But like, I worked with Hasan Minhaj on a skit or a daily show and he found me through Twitter and it just goes to things like the OG way, the gatekeepers is like no Vietnamese Canadian is high on the list of Hollywood talent finding.
I don't care anymore. I just kicked down the door, right? Built my own audiences. I do my own thing. It's like people like it. They don't like it. It doesn't matter to me. This is what I'm doing. I'm just going to keep doing it. Right. And Something quote unquote bigger happens, cool if not, also not cool because I'm happy with my life.
I'm happy the life I've created, being able to take care of my wife and my kid, work the hours that I want and consume the content I like, meet interesting people
Liberty: like you. It's like Jim says, it used to be like you get a piece of paper from somewhere that implies you may be good at a thing, but now it's proof of work.
People know that you can write because they can see it every day on Twitter, on the Substack. You judge people much more... I don't know if it's fairly, but it's more meritocratic in a way. Because a lot of time, Oh, someone's cousin gets hired for this or that. And it's like, eh, can they do it? Maybe, if you're lucky.
But the idea that you went to school somewhere and that means that you're good at something, it's a very, very... Tenuous proxy for talent, I think.
Trung Phan: Yeah, a hundred percent. You live in Ottawa and you transition into investing your own money. For you, that road, if you'd want to write with Auditor Finance, like it didn't exist 10 years ago.
It wasn't even a thing. So listen, you're working with Jim with Infinity Media. And I know you guys are doing interesting stuff, but the thesis behind it being exactly what we just talked about. Traditional gatekeepers, listen, they're still powerful. We're being honest. The New York Times still sets the agenda for a lot of really important people, but the reality is that you can project out what's going to happen in 10 years.
Easiest example is here. We know that ESPN will not be what it's like five years from now, what it is today, right? It might even change next week. But the whole point is that we know that the cable bundle and that classic gatekeeping model will not exist the way it does in five years. I don't know when it's going to change or how exactly it will change.
We just know it's not going to be the same. You just have to add that filter to all these other media formats and gatekeeping mediums. We know it's going to change. It's guaranteed to happen. How and when, can't give exact dates, but we know it's
Liberty: going to happen. Yeah. I think a lot of people are finding out that.
They thought they had attention for one reason, but they actually did for another. And by that, I mean, big studios or whatever, newspapers are the best example. They thought like, Oh, people come to us because we have great news. We do a great job and everything. But it turns out they just had a kind of distribution monopoly or oligopoly.
And now that you can go on TikTok and YouTube and get entertainment from Twitter and from everywhere, some still ends up in the old places with the movies and the TV shows, but now there's alternatives and none of these. Old gatekeepers are gonna give up their power that easily. They're trying to reinvent themselves, they're trying to partner, they're trying to buy each other.
They're kicking and screaming and they'll be here for a while, but the alternative is not going away. My kids, they'd much rather watch someone playing Minecraft on YouTube than most of what's on Netflix. But the people making TV shows on Netflix never thought that they would have competition from some guy streaming Minecraft or Zelda in their basement or whatever.
The playing field is so, so different than it was not so long ago and it's gonna keep changing and... I find it very exciting to think that among these millions and millions of creators, most of it is crap, but the cream of the crop, the absolute number of great stuff is much higher than it's ever been, just because there are way more participants.
50 years ago, there were as many great creators as today, but only a tiny number could get a record deal or go to Hollywood or whatever, and the rest never could develop their art or reach an audience. So it's super exciting. It's the same concept as the number of geniuses on the planet is probably pretty randomly distributed.
All around. And for a long time... Only, like, if you were probably a male from an upper class where you had a bunch of free time to develop your renaissance man type of art, right, and study like Darwin or whatever, could you get to the top of your field in science or arts or whatever. And if you were a woman, if you were in a poor country, if you were a farmer, subsistence farmer.
All these people could be geniuses as great as Mozart or Einstein or whatever, but they never had the opportunity. So just going from that world to a world where opportunity is more evenly distributed, there are more paths that people can find to get somewhere. It doesn't have to be that everybody becomes a huge movie star because that number is still going to be pretty low, but at least there are all these other paths they could have a YouTube channel.
It's super exciting that's kind of like... What I love doing. The thing about like finding David's sunrise, like just keep looking for stuff, follow your curiosity and once in a while you find something that's just so
Trung Phan: great. I know you want to talk about this. So kind of a riff on what you just said about quality.
Certain things still rise above, right? Like Oppenheimer, for example, the last two movies I watched in theaters. Was Dunkirk in 2017 and Oppenheimer in 2023. I've only seen two movies in the last six years in theaters and they're both Nolan movies. Wow. It's just hard, man. When you know what to drill with a kid, man, like getting a movie night is like, that's a six hour commitment.
Wait, you haven't
Liberty: seen Dune
Trung Phan: in theater? I haven't seen Dune in theaters, man. Because I also coordinated my wife, right? Like she didn't want to watch Dune, but she's like, I'll do Oppenheimer. She actually did Oppenheimer and Barbie. She did Barbie separately for me.
Liberty: So what's your take on Oppenheimer? I'm
Trung Phan: curious.
This is my non cinematic review. This is my feeling review. The vibe review. I sat there for three hours without wanting to look at my phone. I'm like, that's it. That's a victory. That's my new test. I have such Twitter brain. My attention span is so broke to shit that if I could sit for three hours On the edge of my seat and not want to look at my phone.
I'm like, whatever happened here, this is special because that hasn't happened. The last time it happened was Dunkirk. When I watch movies at home, no damn well, I got the second screen open. I'm like hella distracted. So that was huge. And as a film. It delivered for me. I was extremely happy. I was so pleased.
I love the cameos. Way out of me cameos. Like, I didn't even realize that Rob Downey Jr. was gonna be in the film. I'm like, oh my god, this is incredible. Me
Liberty: neither. I guess I'm not good with faces or something, but I was like, I know this guy. I know this guy. The
Trung Phan: running joke was like, it was like Avengers for nerds.
So like when Einstein shows up or Niels Borsig's
Liberty: like, oh my god, you're like, and Teller
Trung Phan: rules about it. And we're telling you like, oh my god, who else? Who else is coming? I enjoyed it. It had like an Avengers type feel, but like. Serious Nolan topic. And obviously what the most, one of the most the history of mankind.
So it kind of hit all the notes for me, man. Like I'm not complicating it as a film going experience. It hit every note for
Liberty: me. Yeah. I loved it too. I think I need to watch it again to know how much I loved it because I read the book on which it's based, the K bird biography called American Prometheus.
It's a thick book. There's a lot in there. And so going in, I was like. What are they going to do? Right. It's three hours, but they can do like 15 percent of the book. So I was kind of expecting one part to have more prominence, I guess. And they kind of went more with the whole witch hunt kind of trial where they, there's this administrative trial.
I don't want to spoil too much, but that part is a huge part of the book, but I didn't think they were going in that direction. So most of the film, I was kind of waiting, like, are we going to see like the uranium enrichment? Are we going to see Matt Damon as General Groves running around and building shit?
And I was expecting a more like engineering and tech and nerdy. Film and it went in another direction, which isn't bad. It's just kind of like, Oh, okay. The record scratch kind of, I had to reset my expectations and get back on. And I think for what it was, it was really good, really well made. It's hard to imagine that it could make as exciting as they made it to have like five people in a tiny room with an IMAX camera on their face and black and white talking about security clearance stuff.
Basically a tribunal, right? Yeah. For like an hour, but they pull it off. It's almost like there's three movies and one of them is like a play that's kind of like the 12 angry men or something, but the tribunal version.
Trung Phan: 70 millimeter has to be done in 70 million.
Liberty: Yeah. You have to see every pore and every
Trung Phan: people's face.
Well, Sam Ullman had a tweet that a lot of people got on is like, Oh, they could have made Oppenheimer and you kind of touched on it as like the science angle, the creation, much more prominent the way that the social network had made people really want to become programmers. So I don't necessarily know that's a missed opportunity.
I think the way he set up as more, he wanted to bookend his life. He wanted to show it's based on American Prometheus. I mean, the second part of that was the Prometheus part. It's like brought fire to man and then now paid the consequences for his life. So the consequence being he lost. Everything was turning to.
A bit of a laughingstock and criticized and I agree with you, I have to watch it
Liberty: again. You can never make one movie that will please everybody. So it doesn't have to be the last thing on the Manhattan Project. I think you can clearly see that Nolan is obsessed with playing with time and timelines and parallel like Dunkirk is exactly that.
So he found a way to embed the stories within the stories and some is black and white. The way he did it is like perfect for Nolan. What I wish they would do in a few years or something now that they've proven that this story people are interested in. Do a 10 part HBO prestige series, directed by like Craig Mazin or something, the guy who did Chernobyl and Last of Us, about the Manhattan Project, but take your time with like all of the science y and engineering stuff and the espionage and counter espionage and for nerds like me, that would be amazing.
It would complement the other story very well, which is more of the McCarthyism and The whole, like, he kind of lost control of his creation. So he wants to make this to end World War II, but after that, like, Teller and these other guys, like, let's make a bigger bomb, much bigger bomb, a hundred times bigger, a thousand times bigger.
It's like. What target is big enough to deserve that? It doesn't matter. We have bigger bombs now.
Trung Phan: No, I agree, man. The 10 part HBO series. That would be very apt. Somebody brought a good conspiracy theory. We're talking about Chernobyl is like, you know, how nuclear we talked about a bit earlier. Yeah. Then there's obviously this fear around nuclear, even though if you look at the casualties related to nuclear,
The memes about nuclear
Trung Phan: are so strong. More people die from coal a month than nuclear in its entire history. Probably even if you count the bombs, right? Yeah, not that we're gonna do that, but if even if you did, that could be the place, but... No contest. To your point is like the Chernobyl thing, and this is a little bit more tinfoil conspiracy hat trunk, but obviously makes nuclear look bad.
So I'm wondering what was the purpose of creating that, you know, like you're wondering who's green lighting this? Why is it? Because it's so silly. It makes nuclear... Looks so bad, and it's so salient, and it was such a hit. I think as a
Liberty: drama, it works extremely well because the memes are so powerful about nuclear.
It's like this unseen, it's almost like a supernatural force, and people are very scared of it, and so it works as a drama, but scientifically, the theories were not super accurate. Like, people can google around and find places where a bunch of the stuff that they say is not true, and like, people don't realize that.
The Chernobyl plant had four reactors. One of them blew up. The plant kept operating until like, 92. People went working at the other three reactors and they kept making electricity. I think the total number of direct deaths from Chernobyl is like, 26 firefighters or something. The memes are very different from reality, even though it was a catastrophe.
But there are industrial accidents, like Bhopal or whatever, that killed like thousands and thousands and thousands of people. So, I guess it's a whole separate podcast, which I kind of did with Mark Nelson. Yeah, Chernobyl is kind of like, not bittersweet for me, but it's like I love it so much as a drama.
It works. It's so well made. It's so well written. It's amazing. But it makes people more afraid of nuclear.
Trung Phan: It's a great story. Which is why my tinfoil conspiracy hat's on. I'm like, who's green lighting this? What is the purpose of this content?
Liberty: They need to make a series about coal, some coal plants or something.
Yeah, exactly. Right. Mercury poisoning the locals in the groundwater. Speaking of TV shows, another one that I think we both saw. And like this Fleabag, which I recently rewatched and I'm a big Phoebe Waller Bridge fan. And I'm curious your take on that one, because like, I know right now, like Hollywood kind of grabbed her, right?
As a talent. Now she's working on all these big scripts and James Bond and whatever. I wish she would go back to making these. I just watched Crashing, another of her series in the UK. I love her stuff so much. I'm curious, what's your, your take on her?
Trung Phan: Yeah, we talked about this briefly, but I mean, I just couldn't believe the range, right?
To do Fleabag and like killing Eve. She's so talented. She rewrote What was it? Quantum of Solace. She rewrote one of the Bond films. It's like she was brought in as a...
Liberty: I think the one after that or one of
Trung Phan: the recent ones... To be brought in as a rewriter is a huge like tap on like you've made it like... It's like your William Goldman style, right?
Exactly. William Goldman's like you only bring in the best to rewrite something because that means that film production is having a huge problem and like you are the savior. I love... Seeing people before they become quote unquote successful.
There's a really nice clip of Gordon Ramsey getting yelled at in the kitchen in the late nineties, one of my favorite clips on YouTube. I'll send it to you later, but like you're watching this and this guy who created one of the greatest chef personalities ever, who's objectively hilarious when he's cursing people out is like, I'm keeling over laughing, even though I know he's been a complete asshole, but I'm watching him get.
Cursed and bending the knee to someone that he's acknowledging is superior. I love seeing that. So the reason I bring that up is because you can find Phoebe's, she has a GoFundMe for a show that she's trying to create that became Fleabag. So it's on the internet now. Oh, wow. And it's like three minutes long.
Yeah. You watch it and it's incredible. It's with her co creator. I think they're Lifetime co creators. I forgot her name, but also super talented, obviously, but. It's an amazing piece of content. I love seeing those clips. I mean, one of the previous ones of this ilk was like Kanye. It's like, no, we can't talk about him apparently.
Let's not talk about Kanye. Kanye before he blew up is like, there's a lot of those. Obviously they had the Netflix too, but Phoebe has something. I'll find it for, I'll send it to you. it's a go fund me. It's a three minute video. You're like, Oh, this is amazing.
This is before
Liberty: she blew up. I know Fleabag was based on a play, like a one woman play she did. I wish I had seen
Trung Phan: that. It was for her one woman play. Well, you'll find it. It's on the internet, man. It's like, just go fund me. It's like, Hey, I need 6, 000 to go to this Scottish comedy festival. Hey, can you pay for it?
And they did. And now she's massive.
Liberty: Amazing. I watched that Kanye documentary because of David Senra. It is very interesting to see like how he climbed the ranks and he figured out how to put himself into places where there was opportunity and all that and worked really
Trung Phan: hard.
But His confidence levels, just, I was listening to David's podcast, latest one on Winston Churchill, uh, the Boer War one. I don't know if you listened to that one He has a quote there, which directly links to, again, I'm not comparing any of these historical figures, but he was talking about how all entrepreneurs all love Churchill and Napoleon and how they have this like.
Insane self confidence. Churchill, who admittedly came from a wealthy family and a famous British family, he's like, I'm gonna be prime minister. He's saying this at the age of 20. Yeah. That's kind of reminded me of like watching young Kanye. Like he's like the confidence he had in himself next level.
Liberty: I hate to be like armchair psychologist, but some people like Kanye, there's probably a narcissistic diagnosis in there.
Trung Phan: We're not defending actions.
Liberty: Sometimes the confidence is not just normal. It's pathological, which can help you when you, the only thing you have is like belief in yourself to keep working and keep trying and trying and trying. Most people would give up before people as talented would give up and never make it.
And so if you have supernatural confidence, it keeps you going. But then once you make it.
Trung Phan: You're finding new demons, you're finding new windmills to fight because that energy has to be transferred
Liberty: somewhere. Or the fact that when you have zero, the confidence is the only thing you have. But when you're super successful, it's like the world is telling them that they're a god, they're invincible.
That's when the overconfidence makes them fall, they do something crazy. The last thing I wanted to talk to you about, which is I guess one of your side projects or your main project, I don't know, I don't know how big it is in your days, but I've been using your app Bearly. ai. Thank you, dude. I'm curious about how you've been building that with your co founder or founders.
I'm not sure how many are working on it, but I'm curious also about how you think about this whole revolution in the past year. The LLMs and the generative AI for images and now videos, everything is coming so fast. I'm curious about how you think, where things are going and are people like us, right, they're banging away on a keyboard.
Is it just a new tool to do even better, do even more? Or is it like, oh, in five, 10 years, almost everything is... Mostly AI generated, where do you think it's all going?
Trung Phan: Well, for the listeners, I want to say that barely. ai Liberty is one of actually one of the, I wouldn't call it necessary power user, but you give a lot of feedback and we love it, you give a lot of product feedback and we appreciate it.
And listen, I mean, you use it. What's the pejorative of these types of products, right? They call it a thin wrapper. It's like, yeah, we're built on various AI models, like various large language models. So we're plugged into Claude. We're plugged into. GPT for speech to text. We got whisper and scribe and then obviously stability and DALLE for image generation.
And I mean, the way I look at it as this is like, yes, you're building on top of APIs that are doing quote unquote, the hard work or like putting in all the effort to build that kind of foundation. But the other thing I'd say is. If those type of models are becoming A ubiquitous or B commoditized and it's kind of freely available everywhere.
So you have to find other parts of the competitive stack to compete on, right. Other vectors and prices, obviously one vector, another vector is UX. And I think that's where barely AI kind of comes in. It's like, we have tons of presets. We have prompt marketplaces where. We have a pretty active discord where they're creating their own prompts and kind of sharing it.
If you're an accountant, we will have dozens of prompts for that specific field, right, that people have found that help their workflow. So I think definitely we are on that end of it is like, we are trying to simplify and give a user interface that. A certain amount of the population want to use. I know you use it.
And the question I have is, would you agree with this analysis, your business guys? I just think there are tens of thousands of people that want AI exactly the way we've built it. I'm not saying it's going to be the next Google, but I'm saying the way we've built it is exactly how some people will want it.
Liberty: right? One thing is that tons of people, especially business people, especially people build spreadsheets and try to quantify everything UI because it's kind of fuzzy. There's not a number for it, but Apple is not the most valuable company or I don't know if Saudi Aramco is bigger now, but whatever.
It's not as big as it is only based on fees and speeds and megahertz and GPU cores. Part of it is just all these intangible and qualitative stuff that. Feels better to use. It's more convenient. It's more intuitive. When I try to do something that I've never done before, most of the time it's how I would just imagine it to be.
I try something and it works. And so, building a really good UI and UX for these models. It's super valuable to me from anywhere on my desktop. I just have this key combo, press it, pop, I do my thing and super quick. I can super quickly change between Claude and GPT 4 and see which one has the best answer.
And that part of it has plenty of value. It's very different than just a generic, like open a tab and go and chat GPT, all that type of stuff. So there's definitely some differentiation to be at there. And as you say, right, if everybody's using the same models, And one of them is just like, I don't know, it makes you like, part of it is like, it's more enjoyable, but part of it may be more productive.
I love your hyper chat thing where with a slash I can do a grammar correction, the keyboard shortcuts and all that just make me more productive, right? So if everybody's using the same thing, but one of them is 5 or 10 percent more productive, it's like, That's a huge differentiation. It's like in sports where the difference between the winners in the Olympics, it's not like 50%, right?
It's one, two, 3%. Right? So I don't know. I wouldn't compare myself to an athlete, but I think it does make a difference. So I think it's, it's definitely a real value. It's harder to put in a spreadsheet. It's harder for one of the business types to say like, oh yeah, you have a moat it's just qualitative, but it's
Trung Phan: real.
That was like how me and my co-founder, uh, Parham are looking about it and thinking about it. The other part that we thought about was, listen, I do have this. We talked earlier about building an audience, having distribution. This actually fits me because I use this every day. And I don't use it in the way that a lot of people assume.
I probably use it similar to how you use it. I use it a ton for ideation and editing. So I don't have, I mean, we write a lot. Editing is such a different process than writing. Such a different mindset that I hate that context switch. So I'll spend three hours writing and then I have to context switch to editing.
I hate it. But Bearly for me, it's just, it's like you said, I literally just one shortcut. I'm like, it's doing it all for me. And I don't have a copy editor. I probably should, but I don't. And it's my copy editor. It makes me more efficient on that front. It saves me hours on copy editing and the context, which is what it saves me on.
Cause that's the most annoying thing in the world. Yeah, you can't
Liberty: edit and create at the same time. Totally different modes. One is going to hurt the other. And so if you just stay in the flow and just create a bunch of stuff, if you publish once a month or something like, okay, you have plenty of time, go back over it and everything.
But there are many weeks where I'll publish three times a week, fairly long stuff. That's what I use it for, right? Grammar correction. And, oh, this headline is not quite right. Like, give me five variants. Okay, this one's better. But I still decide, I still pick it. A lot of the time. It gives me suggestions.
I take nothing from it. It just could trigger an idea. A lot of it is more like having a, a co writer. That's like you bounce some ideas off and sometimes there's nothing, but you still try it. Right.
Trung Phan: That's a hundred percent. And so like to answer your broader question of like, how do I think about AI in general, I think it's like a co writer in a sense, right?
It's an executive assistant that is way smarter than you, but also makes a lot of mistakes, but you get to pick. Yeah, that's how I think about the product, why me and Parham are building it. Part of it was I have distribution. The other part was like, Hey, I use this every day. So it was a good melding of those two things.
The way that we've described using it is how I envision AI helping people. I don't think it's a replacement. You know, when something's written by Chad GPT, the way I'll describe this, we talk about Oppenheimer. I'll tell you what happened. There's all these secondary and tertiary figures in the film, right?
Like famous political figures that maybe aren't as famous as obviously Bohrs or Einstein. So I started Googling them to find out more about them. And I saw a bunch of these medium articles written within days of the film getting released. I could tell those medium articles Were written by ChatGPT meant to win the SEO pages for those things.
But that perception of like, it can create a lot of junk, but I think you can tell, right, you can tell when something's, there's no effort and it's not inserting somebody's personality, it kind of goes to your U shape. Your personality inserting in the media landscape is what ultimately will differentiate you from this deluge of AI generated content that's coming.
So as a way for us to circle, this conversation is, I would say, really lean into your personality. The Rick Rubin is like, what is your point of view in the world? That's your art is like, that is what will separate you from chat GPT. We can pump out a million words in 10 minutes. That's what will separate you.
And what we, what me and Liberty use this for. Editing, ideation, that's what people should be using it for. Super valuable, it's not going to replace you.
Liberty: Yeah, no, that's a very good point. The amount of work required to write something used to be like having someone at the keyboard, right? But now it's like, press a few buttons and you can generate pages and pages.
Like that's a commodity now. What's scarce. It's basically high quality, authentic, unique, differentiated type of content. And that's the stuff where you need a point of view. You need someone's taste. You need someone that's a good proxy for the audience in many ways, right? Find something interesting. GPT is not going to find interesting stuff for you.
Or if it does, it's going to be super pro cyclical, right? It's like a lot of the algorithms, YouTube or whatever. If you like something, they can find a ton of stuff that's kind of similar to it. But the exploration part, like finding new things that you didn't know about, that you didn't know you'd like, that part is much harder for these
Trung Phan: algorithms.
100 percent man. TLDR, find your point of view. That's your art. Rick Rubin style. I think that's a big takeaway here. That could be a good
Liberty: title for the podcast. Rick Rubin style. All right, man. Thank you for your time. You've been very generous. You can go back and run on the beach now.
Trung Phan: Yeah, I
Liberty: appreciate you, man.
Last words, anything you want to leave the listener with? I'm going to put all your links in the show notes, but what's the best place to find you or any parting wise words or anything of the sort? No
Trung Phan: parting words, at trungtfan. If you like it, I appreciate it. If not, I also get it.
Liberty: Awesome. Thank you, my friend.
Have a good day. Thank you, brother.