Note to Self

WNYC Studios

Podcast Overview

Host Manoush Zomorodi talks with everyone from big names techies to elementary school teachers about the effects of technology on our lives, in a quest for the smart choices that will help you think and live better.

Podcast Episodes

Should We Post Photos of Our Kids Online?

There’s David after the dentist. The BBC interview crashers. The Charlie bit my finger kid. That hero girl blanking Snow White. To say nothing of the baby pics in your Facebook feed, kid pics in your Instagram, and the teens in your Snapchat.

Kids are all over the Internet. But… should they be?

This week, we revisit a friendly debate about whether or not to post pics of children. With one of our favorite podcast hosts, Hillary Frank of the Longest Shortest Time.


Do your parents post pictures of you? Or did they when you were younger? Do you post pictures of your kid?

Let us know. Our team made two surveys—one for parents and guardians, one for teens and young adults. Take just a couple minutes to answer, then share the surveys with your networks. It’s all research for an upcoming episode.

When Was the Last Time You Peed Without Your Phone?

Yeah, it’s been a while for us too. So after a long weekend of photo sharing, music streaming, and group texts, let’s reset. It’s the Bored and Brilliant bootcamp: three quick challenges to help you make space for brilliance in our accelerating world.

Maybe you’ve heard this episode before, but even if you have, a boredom refresher can’t hurt. Take some time to daydream, and see what ideas bubble up as your mind wanders.

Try the radio instead of Spotify. Chase down the ice cream truck instead of ordering Postmates. Stare at the clouds instead of Facebook. Just for a day. Or an hour. It’ll feel weird. And then it’ll feel great.


We’ve Gained So Much With the iPhone. What Have We Lost?

Think back to June 2007. Taylor Swift had released her first single, Barack Obama was running a long-shot campaign for the presidency, and the iPhone was about to change everything.

That first iPhone had no GPS, no video, no app store. No Candy Crush, no Instagram, not even Google. So how did it take over our brains and the world? In the past decade, smartphones have displaced most of the things in our pockets. Calendars, datebooks, the Walkman. Watches, address books, business cards. Tickets, boarding passes, keys. Cash. Eye contact. Boredom.  

This week, what we’ve gained, and what we’ve lost, thanks to the iPhone. With David Pogue, one of the first four (non-Steve Jobs) humans to get his hands on one, and Adam Greenfield, author of Radical Technologies: The Design of Everyday Life.

We See Ourselves in Black Mirror

Charlie Brooker and Annabel Jones are the surprisingly funny minds behind Black Mirror, the binge-watch of choice for dystopian techies. (Besides CSPAN.)

These days, their show veers very close to reality. They’ve done episodes on the performative stress of social media, on the lethal consequences of cyber-bullying, and a show from 2013 on a cartoon character running for prime minister. They seem to have an eerily accurate pulse on our imminent tech future. Brooker and Jones came to the Note to Self studios to explain themselves.

And it turns out we have a lot in common. They’re also wary of their webcams. They also sleep with their phones close to their heads, and they also feel bad about it. They also worry about information overload and the impact of constant surveillance. They’re our type of nerd.

Charlie, Anna and Manoush talked about where their ideas come from, why they haven’t quit TV to launch a startup, and why Twitter is the world’s top video game.

Father's Day Bonus: Dad As the Lead Parent

This Father's Day, a surprise.


You may remember our award winning series Taking the Lead, which we dropped into your feeds last month in celebration of Mother's Day. It follows the story of two Brooklyn women, Rachael Ellison and Leslie Ali Walker, who have a tech idea to help harried working mothers rise up in their professional ranks. 

If you haven't heard the first few episodes, they're right here:

  • Episode 1: The Paint Point
  • Episode 2: The Paradox
  • Episode 3: The Pressure
  • Episode 4: The Partnership

Now, in celebration of Father's Day, we're re-releasing the final part of Taking the Lead: Manoush’s full conversation with Andrew Moravcsik, the accomplished author, academic, and husband to Anne-Marie Slaughter (yeah, the one who literally wrote the book on women in the workplace.) You’ll want to hear Andy’s insights into what being the lead parent has meant for his career, his psyche, and their marriage.

When this series originally aired, we created a list of stellar content (books, podcasts, etc.) to help anyone trying to stay sane as a working parent. Check it out. And keep the conversation going, we love to hear from you, always.  

What Sen. Wyden Does When He’s Not Questioning Comey or Sessions

When Ron Wyden got to Congress, Oregon was known for its wood products and the Internet was a series of tubes. Now, things are a little more complicated.

Government hacking. Feds reading Americans’ emails. Border agents demanding your passwords. Corporations selling off your browsing habits. And our old friend, net neutrality. Sen. Wyden can get down into the weeds with the best of them. This week, he geeks out with Manoush about Rule 41, Section 702, and all the other acronyms and provisions that rule your life online. 

“I had to push back against overreach in the Bush administration, in the Obama administration, and I think it would be fair to say I'm going to be no less busy during the Trump Administration,” Sen. Wyden says.

With his seat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, which heard from former FBI Director James Comey last week, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions yesterday, odds are pretty good.



Preview: Sen. Ron Wyden of the Senate Intelligence Committee

Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee, which today is hearing testimony from former FBI Director James Comey. And just a guess, but chances are issues of hacking, data integrity, and digital meddling might come up.

But Sen. Wyden didn’t just start thinking about these issues during the 2016 campaign. He’s long been a champion of your rights in the digital realm. He sat down with Manoush earlier this week to talk about where that fight goes next. Here’s a sneak peek at their conversation.

Next week, come back for their whole interview, on border device searches, government hacking, cell phone security - oh, and how to keep us all safe without violating our rights.

Meet the Humans Who Protect Your Eyes

Rochelle LaPlante works on contract as a content moderator. She’s seen basically every kind of image you can imagine. All the boring, normal stuff - cat videos, vacation snapshots, headshots for dating sites. Weird stuff, like hundreds and hundreds of feet. And the occasional nightmare-inducing photo of horrific violence, child abuse, graphic porn.

It takes a toll. Some things, you can’t unsee.

Sometimes Rochelle knows who she’s working for, often not. For about four cents a click, she marks whether the images, text or videos meet the guidelines she’s given. Meet the invisible workforce of content moderation.

This week, all the pictures that never make it to your screen. With Professor Sarah T. Roberts, who studies digital pieceworkers, and Rochelle LaPlante, who you should really thank for protecting your eyeballs.

What We Learned from Grandpa’s FBI File

Daniel Aaron was the grandfather of our senior producer, Kat Aaron. He was a historian, a writer… and apparently a suspected communist. At least according to the FBI file uncovered by FOIA the Dead, which uses the Freedom of Information Act to request the files of everyone in the New York Times obituary page. So far, that includes anti-nuke leaders, fair-housing activists, journalists, and a flying nun.

But what you see when you look back through FBI files of yesteryear is that surveillance is shaped by politics. Whomever catches the eye of the FBI depends a lot on what’s going on in the nation, and the world. Right now, it’s not housing activism or anti-nuclear agitation that are (most) suspect. It's terrorists, it’s Occupy and Black Lives Matter. Maybe it’s you.

This week, Parker Higgins of FOIA the Dead and Jason Leopold, senior investigative reporter at Buzzfeed (and so-called FOIA terrorist) join us to look at surveillance past and surveillance very present.


Here's a photo from Dan Aaron's scrapbook that we mention in the episode. Many more images are at the Pressed Wafer, the publisher that brought it out into the world. 

(Pressed Wafer)



Happy Birthday, Freedom of Information Act! You're 50, and more relevant than ever.

Any U.S. citizen (or "lawfully admitted alien") can request information on themselves (or another living person) under FOIA. So why not, right? Here’s how:    

  1. Use this portal to submit your request electronically. You can opt for a paper request, and that has its own instructions.
  2. Once you click submit, you’ll have to read & agree to some terms. But don’t worry, it’s a short TOS.
  3. Enter your email and you will receive a link to continue your request.
  4. That link will bring you to a page that asks for info like your name, email, date of birth, and address. The address part is so you can receive your file, which the FBI will send you via standard mail. Because they are old school.
  5. From there, the form is pretty simple. At one point you’ll be asked if you’re willing to pay for your file, which is up to you. You do not have to pay. They’ll explain, but shoot us a question if you’re unsure at notetoself at wnyc dot org. 
  6. You’ll certify your information and submit! You should get an email with a confirmation. Don’t expect the file soon, though… it can take a while.

N2S producer Megan requested her own file while making this list and it took exactly 7 minutes (she timed it). 

And a tip from Buzzfeed’s Jason Leopold, who we talk to this week - ask the FBI to "conduct a cross reference search as well as text searches of the ECF (Electronic Case File) and a search of ELSUR (electronic surveillance) records." Straight from the expert, guys. 


Ed Snowden Says a 'Very Very Dark Future' Is Not Inevitable

With all the news of leaks, national security, and hacking destabilizing the world, who better to talk to than Ed Snowden? Manoush sat down with him—via video chat —on stage in D.C. at the K(NO)W Identity conference this week. And they talked about all the obvious things: the NSA, the Microsoft ransomware, and privacy.

But they also got really Note-to-Selfy. Manoush and Ed talked about identity, and the self, and the “quantified spiderweb of all our worst decisions” that follows us online.

"Privacy isn’t about something to hide," Snowden said. "Privacy is about something to protect. It’s about who you are, who you can be. It’s about the ability to make a mistake without having it follow you for the rest of your life." 

A full transcript of their chat is here, if you want.


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