Board Meetings As Meditations

"Issue": 060

I recognize I rarely write about the nature of operating. At least, in an explicit form of language. What it means for myself, my co-founder relationship, Eternal at large.

This past Friday we had our monthly board meeting. Where we sat down and had our retrospective since the previous one, and what’s ahead for us. Board meetings at our stage are incredibly rare, but I’ve found them to be indispensable.

Put simply, they can act as meditations. A retuning as a founder/ceo. While creating space for a collective resonance alignment for the most invested parties.

For me the meditation always starts several days before the board meeting itself. When I’m preparing the deck. I typically set up a four song playlist that I have on repeat, and sit for a few hours getting the drudgery down (team updates, financials, etc.) while thinking about everything that happened the past month. I make my way through espresso number one and two.

In terms of the deck itself, I never get very far the first day. I’m always in awe of how much actually happened within the org during the time between meetings.

I’m a compulsive note-taker. It’s the only way I can keep track of time and all the moving pieces. What you come to recognize, when you take so many notes day-in-day-out, is the repetition.

This is what I mean when I talk about, “very few things actually matter.” You find it within the repeating notes. You can typically tell what people care about, because they bring it up constantly. The same is true for any organization. It’s more true, the earlier the team is.

Constructing the board deck, becomes an act of filling the set framework, with the repetitions of the past month. High level, there’s always 3 stories.

  • This is something that’s been happening within the team that is X. (can be incredibly energizing, or a problem we are working through)

  • This is what we’ve been deep in within the product, because we learned X.

  • This is how our day-to-day is changing/not changing. (think of this as operating excellence, or retvrning to excellence)

Team — Product — Process

One of the core values we’ve come to embrace for board meetings, is not leaving anything behind a pretty gloss. There’s no way to get help like that.

So we make it a point to bring things out front. Analyzing why we missed a key ship date goal by two weeks. Where Luca and I aren’t seeing eye to eye. Why we are scrapping our public beta to rebuild.

If the board meeting conversation isn’t a working model of the current state of the company. That’s not a board meeting, I don’t know what the fuck that is. I hope I never experience it.

After day one of not making too much progress on the deck itself, I generally wake up the next morning with everything in my head. (super helpful, I know) And so the next day, or sometimes late evening. I’m able to sit down, and bang out the entire deck in a four hour haze. About an hour of that time is composed of me taking “breaks” staring glass-eyed at a corner or out a window. Another two espressos are taken in during this time.

I’ll give the deck to Luca, and this is where the second set of meditations can occur. Generally we are quite aligned, but there are plenty of times where we have to negotiate on what “reality” was. Having a shared reality with your co-founder, while sounds bizarre in expressing, is hyper critical. Because this shared reality will be how communication moves throughout the team. If a team is not sharing reality, you’ll have miss after miss after miss. Like a country… the central narrative is the glue for future optionality and achievement.

Most of the time though, sitting with Luca after crafting a board deck is a period of shared reflection. Essentially one-on-one time. I see and talk to Luca more than anyone else in my life, and this monthly moment is still some of the most refining conversation we tend to have.

We are blessed with incredible board members, truly thankful for the coaches that have guided and supported our wildest notions of what the present can look like (I’ve stopped thinking about things through the lens of “future” lately).

I like the term coaches for board members. That’s how I’ve come to appreciate them functionally. Absorbing the information download of our performance out on the field, and their ability to help refine our ~plays~.

And to bring it back to our values of having everything out front, your coaches can’t help your swing, if you’re not showing them every time you’re slicing it into the woods.

A couple days before the meeting, I’ll send the deck out with brief notes on flags. If there’s something big in the deck, you want to set the tone that you’ll be spending 50% of conversation time on one subject. Odds are, this was also 50% of your repeating headspace throughout the month. Again… the working model.

Your board members, ideally, have years of experience and scores of companies that have probably touched the exact issue. A reminder that you aren’t THAT unique can be grounding. And now they can give you at times the cheat codes, and at times just a nod of “this is normal, and it’s something every company goes through.”

Finally, we are at the table. It’s small, and intimate. We aren’t at the Gavin Belson board yet.

This is the final meditation. The collective one. I have very few notes to share here.

Slide by slide. Issue by issue. Win by win. It’s talking. It’s building understanding. It’s bringing out front what we are struggling with. It’s all very, very, human. Exhaustive, nurturing, and rewarding.

For me, it’s a body drain activity. Afterwards, I always need to lay down. The full month has been externalized, I’m not holding it within anymore… it’s across the shared body. And we leave with a new set of tools, ready to beget new challenges… cycles… repetitions.

From my vantage point across my founder friends, monthly board meetings at this stage are incredibly rare. If they are having formal board meetings at all.

But I think the growth of pre-seed/seed stage investors means that the entire class will have to move from the spray-pray, hands off approach to —> concentrated bets, high touch, deep mindshare.

I might be completely wrong about this. Something something, this is non-operational advice, except it is, except I’m not liable.

But what I would encourage is board meetings sooner than later in the company building process. The meditation in preparing to externalize the working model of your organization, has shown itself to be one of the most high impact design tools for progressing Eternal.

  1. As a founding team you build clarity around your own org and needs in pushing towards X.

  2. Your board members/investors are able to create an evolving film of what is happening within the company. Building trust, increasing their ability to add value, increasing their buy in into the next big milestone. Never underestimate the benefit of a tight board.

  3. This feeds directly back into the daily process of the team and impact on the product. The primary design founders are actually participating in… the building of the org itself.

Hopefully the cybernetic loop of impact is clear…

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.

Mmmmm. Yeah. Exactly. Right right right

"Issue": 059

You have to realize that you’re in it. Right now, there you are. You can probably spot yourself below.

When I graduated from school, I apartment hopped around the Lower East Side. Between my Abuela’s couch, my friend Zein’s (interning at the Met) couch and bed, and my friend DChen’s (building Source at the time) couch and bed. Very communal, very open door… very Seinfeld the whole thing. I was the Kramer I suppose. I just walked in and made it home. Provided a joke and cheap beer to earn my keep.

And the story begins, I suppose a bit before graduation. Life really begins after resisting the temptation of blowing my brains out while interning in finance going into my junior year, and then the chip formed after getting denied by Bridgewater… most chips form out of a key denial I find. Probably why tech is such an insecure place, why we are so obsessed with narrative and status. Rewriting it all…

After that denial I knew where I wasn’t going to be, designed my own major but then skipped class to find out where I should be. Did a lot of things to find out where I should be. And very accidentally stumbled into co-founding an ed-tech startup. Being the “business half” to an engineering team. But hating the design, I commissioned a friend to help redesign the entire product with me. Not knowing anything formal about design, just trusting my taste.

But there was a more pressing task, getting into more rooms with universities (our clients). More money. More validity to show the universities we could be trusted and useful. This led us to DreamIt’s ed-tech accelerator. Which was great because I didn’t have to drop out (the rest of the team had graduated)… even though mentally I was way out of school already.

Not dragging this along too much, two key things happened before I would leave this ed-tech jawn. The first is I’d meet Peter Boyce. The second is we would get denied a check by Dorm Room Fund. This would work well together, even though at the time I was just blindingly upset.

After deciding I hated ed-tech, didn’t vibe with my co-founder (sometimes you get into a marriage for the wrong reasons), and I (correction: my mom) wasn’t ready to actually drop out… I had to quickly find an internship for the summer.

Somehow, I get flown out to LA to interview for a weird niche internship at Snap. Get a verbal offer while at the office, then ghosted, and then the internship didn’t exist…

So I end up interning for a small consumer joint in NYC. The founders pay me $500 a week, straight to my Venmo. And I just do whatever I can to help… which isn’t much. I still don’t really know how to work. But I was curious and too heady, and so they kept me. Maybe because they knew it was just for a summer.

In the back of my head, Dorm Room Fund was still annoying. And so I reached out to Peter and really started going at him about Rough Draft and why wasn’t it at Penn, and why was he letting Dorm Room Fund take all the Penn deals, and these were all the deals I could do first day as a partner. This continued for a whole summer. Either he started to believe me, or he just wanted me to stop, but we started RDV Penn that fall.

Now I was identifiably — mmmmmmm yeah, I’m doing it.

I was wearing the grey hoodie and the black tee everyday. Inhaling Marc Andreessen interviews. YC’s youtube channel replaced the classroom, other than a few product design classes… where I was generally uninspired but felt a sort of responsibility to my parents maybe…

The entirety of Senior year I spent taking the Bolt bus every other Friday up to GC NYC. Every early Friday morning, I knew I was in it.

I went to the Monkey offices at 1am. BOY WERE THEY IN IT! I watched a call counter go up by 1 million in the span of a couple hours. Ben… and that whole gang. That was a scene.

Graduation does this funny thing. Where you feel like you don’t have to make any decisions or you have to make every decision. Plenty (at least at Penn) do that whole Southeast Asia tour thing. Which is plenty groovy, but I was set to “it’s time to build”. I already hated what social was becoming. And Peter had taken another, full of love, bet on me — RDV funding my company Sushi. Which if you never saw it, because we only had a few thousand users and I was just manically making every mistake possible, was an open group-chat app. Funny enough, imagine if instead of voice, Clubhouse was just open group chats capped at a certain amount of people. That’s what Sushi was.

And now we are back to apartment hopping in LES. The routine was something like. DChen and I wake up around 10am. Work until 1am. Go down to Home Sweet Home and drink until 4am. Rage against the technium and what it could be. Repeat.

Fall came. I got my own apartment in Red Hook. My summer squad went back to finish their last bit of school. Those from my year just moved to the city, BCG and Goldman and Facebook offers starting up. And I was utterly disconnected from all that. I didn’t even want to pretend to get close to understanding that whole ~thing~.

So what do you do when your company is kind of a thing but not a thing, and you want to break through, and you want to be in it again… you miss being in it again… æčïd

You go to Prospect Park and watch clouds explode. And wander around Brooklyn Museum of art and allow the lines to peel off the paintings. And sit in Brooklyn Botanical gardens while Outkast “softly as if I play piano in the dark”. And yes, finally, you’re in it and the switch and the whole thing…

And you wake up the next morning. And go to church.

Sushi, whether I could admit it to myself at the point, wasn’t working. Now it’s November (2017), and my heater is broken. There’s no more money to push the app along, although funny enough, people are still using it daily. But it was all done.

I had a final coffee chat with Charles at Precursor while he was in NYC. I put it all out front. He smiled and nodded and said “It’s the next one, not this one. It’s the next one.”

So I freaked out.

My apartment in Red Hook at the time was all white. Like the type of renovation they do to an old building to attract exactly my kind. Even the floors were a grey fake wood paneling. The bathroom had these fake marble panels, but they didn’t bother rotating them… so you could clearly tell every panel was the same and aligned the same. Super trippy, not fun.

My roommate was gone for months. At some hacker house in Austin. So no job, broken heat, spaghetti and coffee everyday. I just read and keep reading and journaling the same entry again and again. At the time I was also on this no-wifi in the apartment kick. Partially because of money, but also because I was curious what would happen if I really put my technology in its place.

But yeah… I was freaking out in this white box. Playing with my shadow. Until New Years. When some friends and I went to a Real Estate concert to ring in 2018. Maybe it was the music, the comfort of some real friends, something… but it brought me back in it…

I started to create just to create something. It started with a little photography and interview series. And snowballed into me writing about ~the themes~. What we as humans iterate on in perpetuity to extend ourselves. This pushed me into new mobility and access and how we touch our cities. I dm’d Ryan (founder of JUMP Bikes) a manifesto of why I had to work there… and then I worked there.

Excited about the upcoming Sequoia round, knowing I’d be REALLY in it now… a month into being at JUMP. While working in DC to helping re-launch our second city. Uber bought us. No Sequoia round. And I immediately felt incredibly… not… in it. And I so desperately wanted to be, I truly loved that bike and what it could be mean.

I changed my desk from the strategy team I was part of, to sitting in the industrial engineering lab. I wrote up strategy team memos analyzing everything changing in the mobility space (which if you remember that spring into fall 2018, that’s all that was happening).

From helping launch our second city, I would eventually find myself working on a staffing project for European expansion. The most abstract and removed work I would ever touch again. But Uber did show me what winning looked liked. Even if I hated their version of it… scale was an undeniable force and power.

But I couldn’t stay. My manager would actively block any new work I took on. Would call me entitled about the work I wanted to do. It was almost meme like in its cadence and self-contradiction. Then as I was already gearing up to really leave, a white designer very openly said nigga while rapping along with a song… and nobody batted an eye…

Mmmmmmm yes. Not in it… we are not in it.

I was at dinner with Cami (founder of Parade) and she asked if I had seen Dreams. I downloaded and opened it right there, and it was like opening Snapchat for the first time. They were in it.

I emailed David Tisch and told him why I had to work there. That I’d do anything they needed as long as I could be somewhat close to product. A few meetings later, I had my start date. Took a paycut from Uber, but at least I’d be in it.

My first day I walk in the founders sit me down: so we’re pivoting.

shit. they weren’t as in it as i thought

I help them pivot for a couple months. But they weren’t in it. And by consequence. Neither was I. But… I was coming back to one thing.

Getting high on my own supply — I was writing again.

The week before Dreams reset the entire team. I, unknowingly presciently, wrote “Why I’m Quitting Tech”. True teen angst, Don Draper inspired, Medium post. And I was gone from Dreams…

Almost instinctively on that last day, I walked from the office to Greecologies in Nolita. Where I worked out of religiously when working on Sushi.

That post would bring new friends though. Namely Yoni (although we had briefly met before) & Nikita.

I applied to work at USV and Box Group. Hell bent on never leaving NYC. Knowing there was massive potential energy that just hadn’t been properly unlocked… maybe they saw it for me… but it wasn’t going to get unlocked at a venture office. Not for me anyway.

Boy was I not in it at the time, or so I thought.

I was writing madly about avatars and identity. Looking at Miquela and Facemoji and Morphin. Something was happening.

Another dinner with Cami. If there was ever a person that’s in it, it’s her.

“You need to meet my friend Luca. He has this avatar project. I think you two would vibe.”

A couple phone calls. I fly to LA. I sleep on his couch for a while. We just go. We put it all out front. For a week we would wake up and go as deep as possible until we couldn’t. At the end of the week we got hitched. A new Eternal. It became official official first week of December 2018.

January 2019, thinking we were in it, we went to SF to show everyone. And everyone said “No <3”

This is already the second time we should have died.

Our angel investor Jake would pay our rent for a couple months. The Eternal bank account had a negative balance. We just had to build something.

Enter Icon. A quick project to test a couple ideas I thought we could build cheaply. And get some buzz for a real thing. What was that thing… I had no idea if I’m being honest.

I call Charles. To tell him about Icon. And he agreed right there on the call to write $50k — he kept his word, it was the next one.

We build Icon. It’s weird, but it works. I present it at Betaworks with a talk. And there’s some heat. And we have a new batch of lessons. A new batch of opinions. An entirely new new eternal.

So we go back out to SF (June 2019). We have half of the round committed in 2 weeks. A few potential lead firms. We present. They all say “no <3”.

Then it’s July 4th. And every VC on the planet disappears.

we really should have died again right here. like at this point, it’s pure religion keeping it all together. so, it’s new new new eternal time

/// Some of y’all are thinking right now: you did all of this instead of learning how to code ///

but we were innnnnnn ittttttttt

It’s the end of July. We have one months rent left for both Luca and myself. And a little bit more in the bank.

We pay our rents off for August and decide to prototype one last thing. A little jelly character, on a desert map you can move around and trigger animations.

It was so crudely simple, and so obviously the answer. But we only had one shot now. And it had to be perfect.

I write the new pitch deck. Putting it all out front. Luca designs: the vertical pitch deck.

“We can text it. VC’s can forward and text it. It’s inherently mobile. Like flipping through TikTok. Fuck TikTok, it’s mobile like us. Like the world we are building"

Like product, you can tell when a round is actually going to happen. I didn’t know it, because I had never known it before that point. But our seed round had a feeling that no other attempt did. I haven’t been wrong about ~that~ feeling since.

At the end of August. Right before we would have to pay rent, with money we did not have. It was done. Kate at Bolt led our seed. I was alone in SF, and it was done. Walking around, Brockhampton in my ear, and 2 years of pushing to get in it… well… I didn’t realize how in it I was about to be.

The wave of excitement that you finally have money to do the thing you’ve said you’re going to do… is immediately met with a punch in the face of having to do it.

Luca and I set out to do it. We hired fired, hired some more, fired some more.

The grace of our founding team allowing us mistake after mistake. Scrapping the product again and again and again.

we were nottttttttt in it

Yeah we had campaigns go viral. David Dobrik used our instagram filter, and that led to millions of impressions. Yeah we did these one off projects like the Eternal Hotline that added mystery.

but IT — the damn THING — that did not feel like it was happening… did i even know what IT was… what the hell have I been looking for this entire time… what the hell was I ever telling people

We look back on old designs now and ask what we were on, it’s so far from what “new new new new new eternal” is today.

The core team just gets back from our retreat to Beacon, NY. And a couple weeks later, we are pushed to remote life. Pandemmyyyy

If there was ever a time for our product it’s now. We push all doubt aside, and the team cranks. Private beta goes out, and there’s new learnings.

And so we crank again. And public beta goes out. And it’s a huge undertaking. A small team pushing such an ambitious project.

we aren’t in it… but maybe that’s the point now…

It feels like we are in it for about 24 hours. And we crank to fix things…

You don’t bug squash your way to product market fit. It took me almost a month to learn that. I got snapped out of it when my team snapped me out of it. This has been the main learning of becoming an exceptional ceo, it’s actually a reflection of your more than exceptional team. It’s all reflective of them. A group identity.

we shut it down… we crawl back into our hole… i go to Maine to properly reset… we fight, we make up, we come out so much stronger… we crank AGAIN AGAIN AGAIN

It’s going to blow you all away. It’s insanely great.

We are in it…

What do you want? A bullet point of lessons? A guide? How to be a great PM? How to design real good and stuff? Hiring a team? How to pick your co-founder?


This week I’ve been overwhelmed by the reality, I was always in it.

I’m currently reading “The Dream Machine” & “Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test” — and the shared truth is that it’s about being high on your own supply.

Most of this story, is simply me running into people. A dinner with Cami, sleeping on DChen’s couch, a bet from someone that saw I was in it before I did.The only thing that matters is actually doing something that you feel and can smash together into reality. And through divinity, everyone that runs into each other, that’s always been the only plan.

And you have to believe, the same way I believe that they knew, it WAS happening to them. The same way I’ve become aware it’s been happening to me all my life. That there is a there, there.

Have you been listening?

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.

Social Climber

"Issue": 058

Just say it out loud, just to see how it feels.

— Kanye West

Often times, I’ll use my twitter in this way. Probing something incredibly concise and binary, just to see if it leads me in an interesting direction. Earlier today I sent a probe that led me through a few turn-overs in my mind — I type this while also visualizing my hand literally rotating an invisible cube representing the thought… but that’s a whole separate thread.

What I want to do is move around this three tweet thread, in a non-linear manner. And expand on each of them separately, hopefully finding a few new thoughts we can turn over together.

Paid social is something I believe the entire ecosystem has been wrestling with. Many see it as a natural progression: we spend so much time here producing, we should be compensated for that. It’s too much of a lob-sided outcome, where few influencers win along side the platform itself.

The responsibility for compensation trends back towards the network compensating those around them. Whether it’s tipping streamers or paid Discord servers. We are seeing the monetization around social interaction moving at an incredibly rapid pace, in contrast to the “free and always will be” nature of social platforms’ beginnings.

Back in October, while in Maine with some incredible friends. Elena was discussing the myth of American productivity, openly questioning as a function of observing the pandemic, if America needs the amount of workers it has… or if it simply needs consumers. All of us being well aware that there’s a lot of nuance in this probe.

While I subscribe to this question, and potentially to this belief functionally. I do also recognize it is simply human nature, or at least our cultural nature, to feel satisfaction from production. We want to feel valued, and useful.

With the amount of time we collectively spend online, it’s not surprising we might seek opportunities to feel validated through monetary compensation in these spaces. But to me this feels like a somewhat dark path when brought out to scale beyond the designated content creator / influencer class.

Boiling it down: in the recognition that one’s traditionally professional identity is not valued to a certain extent they predicted, they’ve turned to all parts of their identity to extract financial value. Praying that some form of social production may bring them a more satisfying dollar…

We’ve always wanted work to feel like play. “When you love what you do…” blah blah blah. But the compression of work and social is not the same as play. When you have to convert a social call to a dollar amount, what are we actively measuring?

The delineation of space and purpose gives us necessary context for cohesion. How it all fits together. The more we blur those lines, the less it makes sense. We begin to see too much of one thing in the other… muddying intentions and expectations.

It comes back to the socially quantified self… and interface as a point defining the value of one’s social interaction.

Everything is a social network, everything is interface.

You’re born into a network, a family tree stretching in both directions of time. Histories of interactions, conflicts, romances, production.

This feeds into your schooling, walking around the college green a little stoned as you get paranoid from the gargoyle looking at you from the corner of Alumni Hall. College, another interface of time compression. The history of those before you affording validity to you in the present and future endeavors.

And then we are kicked out of the nest of higher education, we go out and join — well whatever we want to call the destruction of youth — the workforce I suppose. Our contribution to the organization is quantified through salaries. This is our first taste of paid social.

We unlock networks as we move. Like colleges, they represent new senses of validity and access. Ex- Uber, Goldman, IDEO, Carpenters Unions, regional real estate association… and products like Slack have made this networked understanding of organizations broadly understood.

When dropping a voice note to Elena about some of these thoughts, before putting them down on Substack, she expanded: how work — especially entertainment, advertising, finance, tech is like a social network — people funding/promoting work of people who they know, not necessarily meritocratic.

The tension of work/industry being the same as a social network is interesting to think about how our grievances within these organizations have shifted as we’ve had more access to social technologies and the reflections it affords us.

Twitter and LinkedIn in particular allow these professional networks to move in front of the public eye. And in the literary commentary culture of both interfaces, we lament through constant production within these networks the reflections that we see.

We are all social climbers. The quantified self tied to social-professional identity. Compressing self, leveraging a bit of e-girl behavior on top of designer profession, or an edge-lord trigger boi that’s also a principal at a venture fund.

We blur the lines. We blur the nature of appropriate interaction. And constantly obscure the expectations across identities.

My concern is not an explicit critique of what Li Jin would describe as the need for a creator’s middle class. Although I do believe that some of my beliefs would make for an interesting conversation clash with her. Instead, it is circling what happens when we make monetization an expansive possibility within the platforms we interact in.

Product design is inherently culture design. The quote tweet feature promotes a commentary structure within the network. Compared to a simple retweet which is an act of cosigned elevation and agreement.

And so I ask, what are we sacrificing in this potential design and subsequent cultural acceleration? From my tweet above, I probe that perhaps we lose a sense of hospitality. A coming to the table, without a notion of transaction value.

The design begin to force a question — not of “do I enjoy this interaction” but “do I want my money back?”

Here is the right word. Hospitality was a condition consequent on a good society in politics, politaea, and by now might be the starting point of politaea, of politics. But this is difficult because hospitality requires a threshold over which I can lead you and TV, internet, newspaper, the idea of communication, abolished the walls and therefore also the friendship, the possibility of leading somebody over the door. Hospitality requires a table around which you can sit and if people get tired they can sleep. You have to belong to a subculture to say, we have a few mattresses here. It's still considered highly improper to conceive of this as the ideal moments in a day or a year. Hospitality is deeply threatened by the idea of personality, of scholastic status. I do think that if I had to choose one word to which hope can be tied it is hospitality. A practice of hospitality recovering threshold, table, patience, listening, and from there generating seedbeds for virtue and friendship on the one hand. On the other hand radiating out for possible community, for rebirth of community.

— Ivan Illich (interview)

thank you LM Sacacas for the discovery :)

The line that should stick to out to everyone in the quote above is right here, “Hospitality is deeply threatened by the idea of personality, of scholastic status.”

The compression of each social interaction holding the potential for compensation is a culmination of status games reaching commerce built around the cultural production of identity itself. Mediated by interface we create tiers of potential closeness, instead of space of mutual recognition. It’s a relationship advancing based on one’s inclination to pay through each gate…

Modern software technology as an industry-culture, has a certain obsession around this rugged market extraction tied to status. We see it deeply in the crypto space and tokenizing one’s self. We see it in alt-education with ISA driven schools like Lambda or however one might classify On Deck. Both leading to a very pre-defined outcome for the individual. At the core, they all elect to focus on the value of programming (both provided by the institution or the individual self-tokenizing)… and then I have to reiterate the medium is the message — and look to understand the culture their design is inclined to produce.

This compression we’ve been meditating on, does not exist within an isolated iteration circle of product progression. It’s representative of deciphering the emergent needs of a culture, that exists within a rapidly changing economic system. In my first tweet I linked above I mentioned, “I’d much rather have proper UBI than people selling selfies or paying to enter a conversation room... Viewing every action as a potential for “work” doesn’t sit right...”

Perhaps this is the cross-roads we find ourselves at now. It’s not a distant potential future — Congress has debated national stimulus checks throughout 2020.

We’ve been living in an ad-sponsored free platform social economy for the past decade+. The creator economy has grown in step with the proliferation of these platforms, and we’ve seen the distribution of audience an individual — now indistinguishable in the eyes of interface to media institutions — can hold.

But we have to consciously ask: What do we want for ourselves… what does the technium want of us…

My fear is that the structure of the individual as profile based around quantified status games, has eroded our ability to recognize the intrinsic value of interaction — and in this loss we enable a path towards commodified consumption and transaction around what was previously everyday interaction.

Or in other words… what makes us human.

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.

If we are going to write about ourselves...

"Issue": 057

We are as gods and might as well get good at it…

— Stewart Brand

I haven’t left my apartment in a few days, and I suppose I’m getting decently antsy considering how close I’m writing this since my last post.

Scrolling around the internet, flipping back and forth between Twitter and TikTok to keep my thumbs and eyes busy despite my mind needing rest… I can’t help but open and scroll through writings within our “community”. And I also can’t help but be disappointed.

My friend Nikita has such a great phrase for whenever I’m feeling this way: over production of elites. There is both too much of everything and not enough of what I need some how…

I’m not sure we’ve fully taken into account what the global village has done to our ego. It’s not enough to recognize that we will continually be connected and intersect in each other’s production. McLuhan laid this part out well.

The global village is a world in which, you don’t necessarily have harmony, you’ll have extreme concern with everybody else’s business. And much involvement with everybody else’s life.

— Marshall McLuhan

McLuhan talks about the electric man returning to the nature of the tribal man. Seeking resonance of the crowd, and the self becoming less of the classical term we previously thought of ourselves through the lens of our individual uniqueness.

Instead we can articulate the crowds that we weave in and out of. From tech twitter to cottage core tiktok… it’s the “X as a personality”. We wear our memes now, like clothing, an extension of our skin.

It’s in the reconfiguration that our systems of measurement haven’t caught up to the reality of our global village, and I think it’s produced an interesting layer of distortion.

The one I’ve been focused on for the last couple of days, turning over in my head. Is the nature of how we write about ourselves. “We” being the online tech twitter crowd.

In classic tech fashion, our nature of commercializing our hobbies and in turn finding community and personality through the meme of it… it feels as though we produce an extraordinary amount of public writing about ourselves and actions.

Most of what we tend to write is the categorization of our daily actions from individual participation of how to be the best PM you can be — to derivative HBR style analysis of strategies. Of course a healthy dose of forecasting and post-event reflective thought makes its way throughout the media mix as well. All of this writing creates a healthy size substack class within the ecosystem. Production in search of community.

It seems to me, however, what we’ve lost is our appetite of critique. And when we get it from the outside, and the mix of quality that can come from those not intimately tied to the complex processes of building technologies… we seem not too pleased with that either.

So if we are going to write about ourselves constantly… can we please get better at it.

I think there’s a lot of reasons that internally, we are not the best at live critique about the technologies we are actively creating and living with. But the primary culprit is simply: fear.

We are part of an industry that moves incredibly fast, which means the players that may be important tomorrow are equally shifting. And so we run into the polite-isms of “you never know who you might be working with/for.”

This is equally reflective of the breakdown of tribal man —> the identifiable profile. Production tied to the self, when not received well, often returns with critique not of the piece but of the producer. Perhaps this is the root of our collective fear of holding an opinion out for consumption.

My only answer to this is that — there is no progress without narrative. Our lack of self-critique shows in the baselessness of so many products. There’s just no there, there.

Every object we interact with daily, has the ability to enhance our lives. To make it useful, delightful, comforting. With the noise of the world, I truly believe that products have the ability to help ground us. Forge stronger connection. And at times, when we really do it right… elevate us.

That’s all that I want to do. I believe that’s what many of us would like to do.

Make things people love using daily.

But without active critique. Without being able to elbow our peers in a better direction… we are producing on sinking sand.

I often wonder, if more tech beefs would be beneficial. Clear articulations of what things should look like, and a willingness to fight over the future. We’ve probably lost this tolerance as well.

I don’t know… I think we can be so much more.

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.

Slidingggg Interfacessss

"Issue": 056

Yesterday I had this tweet that I was decently proud of the quality of thought.

Then, what came over me was this visualization of the classroom as an analogous interface. How we could think of the framing of a blackboard/whiteboard as screen. The teacher moving within the screen to create a sense of legibility for the students.

The students as keys, raising their hand or double clicking in order to address the teacher in frame. Have it change directions, work it back.

Sherry Turkle states in “Life On Screen” that we take things at interface truth.

I think about this constantly as so much of our interactions and information distribution is mediated by the screen, audio flows in our ears, and we look to push into new form factors.

Since I was a kid, I had issues with authority and respect. My parents spanked a good amount out of me, at least as it pertained to how I addressed them. Parents are a sort of interface as well… the ability to interact with historical and genetic code past. How it flows through everything always and forever. Who’s really ever scolding you…. in a way it’s your future self.

Our teachers, an interface into greater sources of information. Instructed us day-in-day-out. They’re also a daily extension of the state. Executing programming.

Junior year of high school, our AP US History teacher gave us the book “Lies My Teacher Told Me”. The interface in that moment broke. He unraveled the myth, and handed the codes in our lap. The book has plenty of faults of its own. But at least, those that were the historical distributors of truth and thought, up to that moment, said it wasn’t all as clean as we served it to you.

Over the weekend, I was musing with friends about how we believe everything that we hear. If I get into a little spat with my girlfriend. We might say something we both know isn’t true, but it hurts and internalizes all the same.

Then we have to do the extra cognitive work to undo that careless mistake of an argument. In order to remove the brain worm, we have to perform full surgery.

This presents a wild conundrum for platforms like Clubhouse. Where anyone can get on stage and say some craziness in the middle of a wide ranging conversation. How do you “moderate” that. The brain worm has been spoken. Manifesting across an audience, reaching new conversations… a virus. SNOWCRASH!

It’s also why I think fact checking is too much of a rearview mirror exercise. If I’ve consumed a tweet without the tag, and then I come back and see the tag. I don’t think that effects as much as we’d like it to. Sure, we are catching something midflow… but half the crowd is already sick.

To bring this back to Zoom school being more representative of school interface than we’d like.

Not only do we take things at interface truth, but I’d add that interface is less distorting than we think it is. The interfaces that stay, tend to simply reflect. Maybe it’s because, by making machine we must then interact machine like with it (feel like this is a James P. Carse worm that I’ve fully internalized now).

What happens when two people are behaving machine like… what becomes our goals?

Well, it’s to see ourselves a bit clearer. Interface is reflection, it’s our own ability and control, whenever we don’t like what we are seeing… perhaps we have to change the interface. Change the extension of us we are interacting within, in this heightened sense space.

We aren’t happy with Zoom school, probably because we aren’t happy with how school school is operating…

I would assume, it’s time to change both. And we can thank Zoom for showing us.

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.

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