Amateur Environments

"issue": 077

alternate title: becoming each-other’s everything

In technology, we consistently speak on the democratizing force of the internet and the subsequent effects on society.

But lately I’ve been thinking not just on this shift of democratization and more tools in more hands. Instead, thinking of this force as “amateur-ization”.

The realization that software is able to abstract a typically professional environment, to a more open for participation amateur one.

For a short list of examples:

  • Twitter = amateur intellectualism

  • Instagram = amateur photography

  • Youtube = amateur videography

  • Robinhood = amateur finance

  • OnlyFans = amateur pornagraphy

  • Depop = amateur retail

  • Crypto = amateur governance & capital

Amateurizing has compelling effects on the environment. It reconstructs our referent objects from those that have situated themselves “above” through some means → towards each other.

Like streetwear, it creates new rules of construction. New possibilities of interaction - both socially and with the materials being sourced.

What’s brand new is the distribution and ease in which our peers can contextually shift their identity towards the rest of us.

I believe this is the meta-tension between generations. Those that grew up in predominantly professional environments vs amateur ones.

It manifests itself as “misinformation caused by Twitter/Facebook” or “crypto is a ponzi-scheme” or “streetwear isn’t fashion”.

But ALL of these breakdown eventually.

Quick reasons why amateur environments are interesting to me:

  • Tiktok is fun because it’s like a double amateur environment. A lot of Tiktokers want to be YouTubers. This double amateur environment gives clues as to what is desirable in a higher sense / where attention still stands / etc.

  • Robinhood is interesting because it’s an amateur environment where the participants do not desire to become professional. They simply want to have access to a similar outcome. By that I mean, no one spending their time in this way wants to graduate up to working at Goldman Sachs. Those are the suckers stuck in the professional environment. It’s better to organize on WSB and play their own game.

  • Continuing on the above, Robinhood is interesting because the arena of the amateur and the professional are the same. The structure of market can no longer exclude the amateur.

  • Once the amateur environment becomes the primary environment, the professional one becomes the anti-environment. Warhol putting the Brillo Box in the center of the gallery.

  • The amateur environment is the direct-to-consumer-to-consumer. “my producers, are they not my consumer”

Software is the ultimate de-materialization tool. Turning entire machines and organizations into pixels. Spreading that light across any hand holding a pocketcomputer.

What other professional environments are ripe to be dematerialized, amateurized, restructured for new participants to adjust the nature of the medium itself?

I think what web3 understands spiritually, is the previous amateur environment has become incredibly professional. This loop continues in perpetuity of our existence and provides us with the opportunity to build… anything.

I don’t do edits really, so excuse typos and things that don’t make sense.

Thanks so much for giving me your attention. I hope it was worth it, if not… unsubscribing will not hurt my feelings, and will give you back time you literally cannot have back.

Much love.

Live in the light

Founder to Founder: Take A Vacation

"issue": 076

Super short dispatch.

I recently took my first proper vacation in two years. Typically I’ll do a three/four day weekend to rest up when I need it. But this time I hit a real wall.

Luca had gone on vacation, and was encouraging me to take one. The day after, Kate called me to encourage me to take a vacation. Then during the board meeting, everyone encouraged me to take one… not just say “yeah, I’m planning to take one soon.”

Founders live and die with their identity wrapped around their companies. There’s a lot that goes into that, and people will say it isn’t healthy. I don’t really care for those people. That’s what creation is like. We aren’t betting the farm not to have this be core to the very fabric of who we are.

It never feels like a good time to take vacation. But part of your role as a founder is setting up structures that can maintain without you for a period of time. Trust the structures you’ve built.

Burn out is real. You don’t want to cross that line. It’s not doing you any favors.

Your team can see it. Your investors will see it. The product will feel it. And then everything you wanted to hit just right, will fall flat.

Two bars from people close to me that are coming to mind while writing this.

  • There is no prize for not taking a vacation - Jonny

  • You have to go see visions to have visions - Kate

This dispatch is really for one reason only. If you’re a founder and you’ve been debating taking that vacation, it sounds like you need it. Take it. Everyone will be better off because of it.

You have my permission. Write me when you do.

Special thank you to Bryce for hooking up Utah for me <3

I don’t do edits really, so excuse typos and things that don’t make sense.

Thanks so much for giving me your attention. I hope it was worth it, if not… unsubscribing will not hurt my feelings, and will give you back time you literally cannot have back.

Much love.

Live in the light

Finding Our Place Online

"issue": 075

Our social products were supposed to be a new sense of home. A digital 3rd place you could expand your sense of self. The best neighborhoods you could form, experience, and extend relationships within.

So what happened?

Our web1 emergent ideals of online spaces didn’t last too long. With the ushering in of Facebook and the subsequent giants we live within today, came a new set of realities. Instead of fluid expansion and expression, we flattened identity for ease of perpetual consumption. Instead of space, we restructured time to continually surface top down recommendation.

We thrive on enragement bait. Constantly positing our individuality against those of others. Wrapped in anxiety driven status games.

Agency, is constantly being stripped away from those that construct the very experience that is the network.

We’ve heightened an abstracted sense of relationship to each other. Removed the notion of physical closeness. Lost abilities of ownership, and definition.

Even our group and “community” platforms are over-run with floods of notifications with low context and 0 structure other than holding the chat itself in messy tabs to navigate. This doesn’t even mention the increased social dialogue of the need to join as many communities as possible… never finding what we are actually hungry for.

It’s bleak. And we can all admit that. And we can also all admit, that we have to be here.

We want to be here, because we want to be close. We want to be present.

I’ve been thinking about finding my sense of place online for a while. It’s been an outwardly facing mission for some time. It’s something I consistently struggle with — as exemplified by my recently unfollowing of 300+ people on Twitter.

Instead, I continually come back to those values: closeness and presence.

I believe everything rotates around these themes. It’s why we get upset at our partners. Why we go to parties. What makes a good meeting or bad meeting. The reason families have been structured in a fairly consistent way for centuries.

The question then becomes: What are the technologies we can leverage to embody these values?

Not an abstracted mental leap we tell ourselves, but a daily lived reality for how we socialize online.

There’s been a lot of abstract hype around concepts of “the metaverse”. Informed by the rise of web3 and popular gaming, fueled further by the sci-fi reverence the wider technology community holds for literature like Snowcrash and Ready Player One.

I don’t care to give my take on this subject specifically (Matthew Ball has said too much as is, and VCs used to look at me crazy when I talked about the metaverse years ago), as much as care to give us another reference point to extend from.

“Lifecycle of a Software Object” by Ted Chiang.

Where we see the ties of community within a spatial app, slowly falter as compatibility to port to a new spatial world that’s gaining popularity struggles.

This to me is far more accurate to the emotional resonance we will and should feel in these environments, how these environments will operate, and how these environments may struggle… than anything else I’ve read.

What I focus on, daily, is what it means to hold place in these worlds. Looking around at what we have today, in gaming and social, I’m still deeply unsatisfied.

What we can build today, right now, to bring us to a new understanding of what social might be?

What social is, and will always be, is about presence and closeness. Everyday we enter spaces to have this exact sensation. We use artifacts to form our environment towards our desires. And we adjust our presentation of self to both mesh with and reflect from those around us .

It allows us to feel touched, from hundreds of miles away. To hear someone, we have yet to meet, but can understand deeply from a consistent closeness of a dedicated relationship.

Where we are going, where we need to go before it all breaks down, is a new spatial alignment.

It’s world building. It’s agency. It’s knowing who your neighbors are, and that meaning something.

We want to build vibrant online neighborhoods, bursting with emergent cultures.

To achieve that, it’ll take something really new…

I don’t do edits really, so excuse typos and things that don’t make sense.

Thanks so much for giving me your attention. I hope it was worth it, if not… unsubscribing will not hurt my feelings, and will give you back time you literally cannot have back.

Much love.

Live in the light

It's Pronounced Homer

"issue": 074

The Black body at ease is a radical act.

Last Saturday I had my 15 minute slot to make a key choice of what chain I wanted to cop from Homer. As a top percentile Frank Ocean stan, I’ve been looking forward to this appointment for a while.

I wasn’t rocking a crazy fit when I pulled up. Lately I’ve been sporting a Yeezy Season 6 hoodie, because I just love the color so much. Dark mineral energy. I paired that with my Jacquemus cargos & ALD x New Balance collab sneakers I’ve been beating to hell. A solid fit, but nothing crazy.

Waiting outside the store listening to Donda, an entourage rolls out. Racks in hand, a couple Prada bags (snagging the last of the Homer collab) and dip into a suburban. It got very real very fast at that moment.

There’s nothing quite like a solo luxury experience when you know you’re going to buy something.

But then, there’s nothing like this luxury experience. Produced by a Black man. With all Black employees working. Walking in, fully realized.

I didn’t want our work to be any less expensive than Cartier…

— Frank Ocean

I walk in and Dev Hynes (Blood Orange) is hanging at the counter about to check out. Following behind me is Kerwin Frost with (who I assume was) his assistant.

Turning to the employee behind the counter I ask, “is it always…” — “yeah it’s like this everyday”.

Kerwin asks me what I’m copping and I point to the chain, mentioning how I like the playful form and ball-chain. He looks and then points to the one next to it that’s three times the size and probably 30x the cost.

Word my G, it’s like that lol

But it is like that, and it should be like that. This is where the culture is at. This is where the culture has always been at.

Black luxury is important. Full sentence. Full stop.

The Black body as something to be adorned.

As both the primary drivers of cultural creation and consumption, it’s been a long problem that we haven’t necessarily held the highest agency over the construction of our talismans.

But this is changing incredibly rapidly, and not full recognized in the broad sense. Which we saw before with “streetwear” — and we saw the repercussions of how it absolutely redirected the fashion industry.

To build Black luxury is to re-contextualize the Black body in America. To tell narratives not rooted in reaction to previous oppression or struggle, but in present pleasure and future legacy.

Once again, the Black body at ease is a radical act.

I could write so much more on this subject but I wanted this to stay on the shorter side. The timing of this purchase as I wrestle with questions of cultural production within the wider technology landscape has me on very interesting/personally satisfying consumption paths. But everyday I’m reminded of the beauty in Blackness, and a renewed love for who we are.

I don’t do edits really, so excuse typos and things that don’t make sense.

Thanks so much for giving me your attention. I hope it was worth it, if not… unsubscribing will not hurt my feelings, and will give you back time you literally cannot have back.

Much love.

Live in the light

NFT's as Keys (01)

"issue": 073



this will probably morph into a larger series of my thoughts on nft’s, and warning I’ll probably throw out some intentionally triggering probes

I have so many thoughts about NFTs, it’s legitimately silly and frustrating. Because I read so many bad takes on them daily through the hellscape that is my Twitter addiction.

I want to start with something I find so painfully obvious… and yet *waves around*

NFT’s As Keys

The medium is the message. Repeated to death I know, but we consistently muck it up. The same way the medium isn’t the car, it’s the road. The car is just the current programming.

It can encourage and prime us in specific ways, of course (very ~ what technology wants by kevin kelly). But at the end of the day it’s not about the jpeg.

ETH itself is a social network. And when you embrace it as such, more behaviors and innovation unlock well beyond DeFi.

DeFi, was simply the most attainable model because it is the old medium within the new. Strip what’s wrong with Wall St. and improve it with the tools of the new medium.

Similarly, the jpeg is about stripping certain qualities of the art market and how it isn’t suited for the internet -> and pulling it into the new medium. And we’ve seen an insanely rapid embrace by Christie’s and the likes.

We’ve seen this time and time again. It seems to be a truth of media.

So where does that leave us? Well, let’s look at just a sliver of what ETH provides us with to understand the forming attributes of NFT’s.

  • public histories -> provenance, ownership verification

  • virtual machine -> new style of digital objects (code)

  • smart contracts -> transactions, fractionalization, party bids

These are just the basic first order effects of these qualities. It is quite simple to draw a direct mapping from ownership verification -> DAO structuring.

And there is the first example of NFT’s as keys.

The purchasing of 1:1 jpeg, abstracted from a wider “collection” is a very hard bet. It isn’t a key, or if it is, it isn’t a restructuring of the nature of audience. It’s buying art with ETH instead of the dollar. Other than forming the 1:1 around something like — I find it hard to see how they are utilizing the medium effectively. (i have an idea around this but will pocket it for now)

The first obvious key unlock, is the purchase unlocking the marketplace of that collection. Because higher payouts excite, it’s not surprising we went that route automatically. But the access to marketplaces has been something abstract for quite some time. I don’t hold this initial unlock lightly, but at the same time it is also the most DeFi-esque

This was quickly followed up by remedying the sense of “where lambo sir” -> communities. Verify you have this NFT in your wallet, unlock the Discord. With varying degrees of unlocking within the Discord between holders and non… now your basic collection is mandated to have 2 unlocks with your NFT purchase.

Now that we’ve gotten to the base layer of where we are at presently… the problem is that these unlocks are hardlyyyyy touching the chain. The medium itself…

Enter Blitmap.

Obviously I’m slightly bias here, as a function of creating one of the originals and having the privilege of seeing this project from birth. But my primary point should still stand.

What Dom did that was taking a step beyond using generative art on-chain as the basis for new mints -> was creating a mechanism for the creation of the keys themselves.

If you’re unfamiliar with the project, here’s the rough idea of how it went down.

  • a group of artists created 100 original pixel art pieces

  • once those were minted you were able to pick a base + a palette, from the original pieces

  • in combining those you minted “a sibling”, a remix of a piece you owned and the original creators received a split of that mint

  • with a total collection of 1600 pieces, all community made on-chain

Humans are obsessed with being part of the creation process. It’s just how we are wired. It drives so many acts, as silly as looking through the window cutouts at construction sites to sex.

This on-chain mechanism for a community to craft their own keys is as simple and human as it gets. Already adding an on-chain layer to the Discord & Marketplace that we’ve come to expect.

And what’s more, is looking at future unlocks of the product roadmap. The Blitnauts, characters that you can mint if you’re a Blitmap holder that will incorporate your Blitmap without burning it. FOR FREEEEE 99! As well as game jams & more characters incorporated into holding your Blitmap.

If you’re thinking about NFT’s right now (from a business perspective, if you’re vibing off of 1:1’s or gifting to friends much love to you), you have to be thinking about (no pun intended) the chain of interactions you believe the object is helping to unlock.

Blitmap started on the creation side of interactions leading up to the mint. I think, similar to how gaming mechanics proliferate, this will become incredibly more common. As, in a way, it’s reference extension of avatar creation in games (extremely common).

Where I believe the innovation still is wide open, is everything that happens after minting —> beyond Discord and secondary marketplace expansion.

A fun initial prototype was Mark’s Habibi’s League. Where avatars represented teams that existed within a small e-sports league.

John and I have jammed on a creation of an NFT game where your purchase of the NFT allows you to enter the world. Death in that world strips you of the NFT and forces a sale. Very inspired by Hunter x Hunter’s greed island.

I don’t want my critiques on 1:1’s outstanding collections to come off as me being outright against them. I believe there’s deep cultural value, but it doesn’t fit this particular framework well… and this is the phase we are in.

What I want to expand on in my next piece on NFT’s… cultural liquidity. Which I think the entire ecosystem has an extremely inflated sense of understanding because of how much capital is moving through the system…

ok… this wine is starting to set in.


I don’t do edits really, so excuse typos and things that don’t make sense.

Thanks so much for giving me your attention. I hope it was worth it, if not… unsubscribing will not hurt my feelings, and will give you back time you literally cannot have back.

Much love.

Live in the light

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