The Hypercritical Way

This past November it was announced that my all-time favorite podcast, Hypercritical, was ending.

Hypercritical is a weekly show hosted by John Siracusa and Dan Benjamin where John focuses his razor sharp style of critique on news, technology and toasters. I’ve listened to Hypercritical since it was first launched two years ago. Most Friday afternoons I’m in the chatroom listening live.

I started to think retrospectively about Hypercritical and why I liked it so much. John has demonstrated that it is often far more satisfying to understand why you like something than to just blindly hold an opinion. I began the process of re-listening through the entire Hypercritical catalog, all 158 hours of it. My goal was to be able to clearly describe why I love the show so much. The result is a critique methodology that I’ll rather overbearingly refer to as The Hypercritical Way.

Nothing is so Perfect

Firstly, nothing is ever good enough to evade critique. In fact the best things, the things we think are the closest to perfect often deserve and benefit from the strongest analysis. No computer will ever be fast enough, no program well designed enough, no device ever shaped well enough to not warrant a detailed look. This critique is often a sign of respect and affection for something. Often I had a higher degree of appreciation for the things in my life discussed on the show after hearing John take them apart and describe how they could be better.

Collect & Ruminate

The actual critique itself is conducted by methodically collecting as many facts regarding the subject as possible. It is then a process of applying logical analysis to these facts to craft an opinion that is as logically obvious as possible. There is always an element of subjectivity in forming an opinion, however, the more these are based on objective observations the stronger they will be. It is about being passionate about core virtues rather than brands or celebrity. The remarkable result of this careful, rational approach is that it results in a stunning degree of accuracy. Listening through the old episodes it was rather amazing to hear John talk almost clairvoyantly about the future of technology. For example, clearly predicting the Fusion Drive (#17, 1:27), iMessage (#18, 0:35) and the Microsoft Surface (#31, 1:00) well before they were announced.

Critique the Critique

Lastly, the analysis is never complete. One of the most refreshing parts of the show is how humbly John approaches his opinions. It isn’t about him getting it correct, it is about arriving at the best result possible through collective effort. Nearly half of the show is John discussing follow-up comments he has received about past topics. Sharing his platform with the opinions and comments of others always felt incredibly intellectually honest.

The collective result of these three attributes has been a show that is engaging, entertaining and informative. I’ll dearly miss it going forward. My thanks to John and Dan.

Favorite Moments

While going through the archives I figured I’d also keep notes of all my favorite moments and combine them into a short highlights reel. This ended up around 20 minutes.

Direct Link MP3

If you want the best episode of all time I highly recommend #58: No More Numbers For You / The Four Tuners. I would submit this as the canonical example of Hypercritical.

Random Tidbit: The first occurrence of “Like an Animal” on Hypercritical was actually back in episode #17, and not in #58 as many would think.

David Smith