B.J. Novak - Creating a Positive Online Community with The List App

May 12, 2016 - B.J. Novak 05/12/2016 Views: 8,699

B.J. Novak chats about The List App, a social media app he co-created for users to share and comment on lists, including Snoop Dogg's most essential herbs. (5:07)

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Welcome back. My guest tonightis a comedian, writer,

and co-creator of the WebbyAward-nominated app, li.st.

Please welcome B.J. Novak!

-♪ -(cheering and applause)

-(cheers and applause)-Hi.

How are you?

-How you doing? -Good. Great.Nice to be here.

Thank you very muchfor being here.

Thanks for having me on.

You have such an interesting,illustrious career.

-As do you.-I mean, graduated from Harvard.

-Thank you.-You know?

-Wrote, executive producedand acted on The Office. -Yeah.

Yeah. Which a lot people knowand love you for.

-(cheers and applause)-Yeah, yeah.

Acted in Inglourious Basterds, as well.

Yeah. Keep going.

-I mean, this is... this is...this is just a... -(laughter)

-I think that's it, actually.I didn't... -That's about it.

-Yeah, I... I'm sorry.-I had a good run.

You-you did.And you know what?

It seems likeyour run is continuing.

Here's-here's my thing.

You write,your brother Lev also writes.

Lev Novak, great writer. Yeah.

Yeah. And your dadwas also a writer.

-Yeah.-For Reagan.

Well, he's a ghost writer,

which is a really interestingprofession.

-So he writes for him nowas a dead person? -(laughter)

He writes for ghosts.

I just love the idea thathe's writing everything out.

-Yeah.-"This is what he would say."

Yeah. It'd be a great thriller,a great horror movie.

Uh, my father is ghost writerso when you read a memoir

of someonewho's not naturally a writer,

-he's the one who interviewsthe person... -Yeah.

...then kind of writes itin their voice, so...

It's a lot like acting,I've come to realize,

in that you're channelinga character,

and you're writingas that person.

So he wrote Nancy Reagan's book.

Very exciting for me as a kid--he wrote Magic Johnson's book.

-Wow.-Which is a lot cooler

-in the '90s than Nancy Reagan.-Did you... did you get to...?

Like, was Magic at your housetype thing? Was, like...

-I went to Magic's house.-Oh.

-(cheering)-Yeah.

And not once did he say, "Thisis where the Magic happens."

-Can you believe that? Justmissed that whole... -(laughter)

I hate peoplewho miss those opportunities.

-I hate that. I know.-You have the name. Ma...

Like, do you say...?I mean, you're name's "B.J."

-I'm sure you... I'm...-(laughter)

You know, when it's right infront of you, you can miss it.

-(laughter)-That's what... Yeah.

-I can see how that happens.I can see. I can see. -Yeah.

-Don't worry.We'll edit that out. -Yeah.

-Uh...-(laughter)

Now-now you've moved on, though.

I mean, you're stillwriting stuff for the future,

you're still actinghere and there.

But you have gone into the techworld with this new app "li.st."

Yeah, it's been really exciting.

So I had this ideathat we all have lists.

I was talking to you backstage,and I wanted to know

who were the cool comics atthe Comedy Cellar these days.

Yes. Yes.

That's probably a listyou e-mail to a lot of people.

A lot of people have asked youropinion on that, I'm guessing.

Yeah, but I mean,I've never e-mail...

I wouldn't e-mail it to them.

I'd just text itor tell it to them.

Sure. Exactly. But that's thekind of thing that I thought,

well, that would be coolif there's a place...

-We all have these liststhat we keep... -Yes, we do.

that we're the expertsto our friends. It'd be great...

-Top five. -Yeah, it'd be greatif there was a place...

Top five rappers.Top five... Yeah.

-Yeah, it'd be great if therewas a place for... -Top five...

-Yeah.-Top five. Right. -(laughter)

We've gone through nowyour top five versions of the...

-Top five. -Top five.-(laughter)

That'd be your...You'd be a natural for this.

Top five ways people interruptyou... -Interrupt you.

Interrupt youduring an interview. Yes.

So, it started...it started with that--

that, uh...that people could recommend.

And after we launched it,I realized, well,

what people really loveabout social media is

-it's a nice, clean placeto (bleep) around. -(laughter)

So, now there areover 150,000 people on it.

There's over 250,000 lists made.

And a lot of them are fromplaces like the New York Times,

or Anthony Bourdain, and theyhave really interesting...

-Yeah.-...recommendations and stuff.

But the vast majorityare just people

that are reallypouring their hearts out.

What it's liketo survive cancer,

or how to get over a breakup.Yeah.

What I found interesting,though, is people can comment.

Why would you...why would you allow comments?

Like, comments arethe most hateful thing

that has ever been...

I'll tell you something,

and-and maybe the audiencecan change it tonight.

But it's been the mostoverwhelmingly positive place

I've ever seen online.

I think it's because we startedwith a really small group

of peoplethat expanded naturally.

That the comments...I've never seen a place

that has more positivity,as an ethic,

in termsof the way people comment.

People are making suggestionson lists.

So, they're not like,"Your comics are wrong."

-Your favorite comics.-Yeah.

They'll say,"Here are my favorites."

-Or "What about this person?"-Oh, interesting.

So, we... you know, we havetwo full-time community people

-keeping an eye on that,but so far... -Yeah.

...it's been an incrediblypositive, helpful community.

You have some interesting peoplein the community, as well.

Uh, for instance,I saw a Snoop Dogg list.

-Yes, and Snoop... -(laughter)-And it was... it was...

I actually have it here,I mean, for you guys.

-"Top 5 Essential Herbs."-This is... this is what...

-(laughter) -NOAH:But it's not what you think.

NOVAK: It's not what you think,and that--

as much as it's funny--this is when I knew

that the li.st app was goingsomewhere interesting,

when Snoop Dogg...

'Cause, apparently,he loves tech.

-Someone saidinvite him to the beta. -Yeah.

So I sent him an invite.

All of a sudden, he posted abunch of lists, including this.

When Snoop makes a listof five favorite herbs,

-and they don't include weed...-(laughter)

...you know you're infor a bunch of surprises, so...

-Or maybe he forgot.-(laughter)

Sometimes when it's rightin front of you...

And yet... and yet,he remembered oregano.

-I mean, I don't know.-It really is fun.

I hope you keepthe comment section positive

'cause, uh, we need that,and, uh...

It's been going great,

and it's one of my favoritethings about it.

It really sounds exciting.Thank you very much for sharing

-with us. -Thank you so much.Thanks for having me on.

Thank you so much.Li.st is available

at both the App Store and, ofcourse, the Google Play store.

-B.J. Novak, everybody.-(cheers and applause)