a year in review
About a year ago—March 15th, 2021—I published my first piece here, a reflection on the very different ways that Bitcoin and Ethereum were being outpaced technologically called “Futures Past.” I had a background as an arts writer long before I became a founder—at some point after college I lived off $500 monthly checks from a publication while I worked on farms for room and board—but I hadn’t published anything in years and had never had a great deal of success. So when I checked Substack’s analytics a week later and saw that 0 people had subscribed, I wasn’t too surprised. I took a walk, smiled, and figured it was a chance to write for myself.
A year later, a lot has changed. I left a four-year relationship and the life and circles I’d known. I moved back to the states from Europe. I entered therapy and started to feel that I was learning to emotionally walk—badly—for the first time in my life. I paused speaking with my remaining family after I found out they’d been lying to me throughout my life. I stepped back from my company that I’ve run for the past seven years. And you’ll see the pattern here: I’ve started learning what it means to set actual boundaries rather than those imposed by my own emotional negligence.
Lest any of that sound grim to those unmired in the horrors of global conflict, let’s add what else happened this past year. I joined a bunch of DAOs, cofounded two more, and ultimately went full-time on one of them to build a gamified governance platform—fingers crossed. I started a collective of web3 angels and became an advisor for two web3 funds. I joined Twitter for the first time. I made many of the best friends I’ve ever had in my life, which above all else is why I’ll always be grateful to web3. And I published a couple dozen articles here, have gotten syndicated by Product Hunt, and have seen the readership climb to over 2,000 people. There’s a good chance you’re one of them, so let me say as sentimentally as possible: thank you. Seriously, thank you.
I am still processing the magnitude of just how much has changed in a year (am I in a… cult? are we all? aren’t we all?), and I owe an apology to anyone who knew me before I started going to therapy. Frankly, I probably owe some apologies to those who have met me after too. It’s a process, learning how to center myself and learning how to uncenter myself—though this is very much the process of writing too. To what degree is it our responsibility to center ourselves in our sentences, to acknowledge our biases, blind spots, and grudges? And to what degree is it our responsibility to uncenter ourselves, to reach beyond the reflexive ramblings and muscle-memory syntax of our everyday speech to try to become—to speak to, to speak for—someone, something more profound than our humdrum daily selves?
Recently I’ve written less for a variety of reasons, but the main one is that it’s really hard. Getting words to the page is challenging enough, but the real struggle is getting the body to the page. At some level, if you want to write to think, you have to brace yourself for a few inevitable hours of the slowly-dawning realization that whatever you thought you would say is actually unverifiable, incomplete, or incorrect. If you do it well, writing is basically just one long, constant discovery that you are wrong—for reasons that are probably wrong as well.
This is particularly true when it comes to tech. Frankly, the more I learn, the more difficult it becomes for me to have an opinion on anything. With enough knowledge, every case begins to seem like the right one; and with too much knowledge, every case begins to seem wrong. After all, there are no perfect solutions.
So over the past year, I’ve started trading my stances for knowledge—a boring trade, unconducive to the contentious prose I favor, as I increasingly realize I don’t know that I know what the future looks like. “Will modular blockchains beat out monolithic blockchains, or will there be a space for both?” I ask myself, but it’s a question I couldn’t have even phrased a year ago. I don’t know that I could write a piece like “Futures Past” today, not because I think it’s wrong, but because I don’t really know if it’s wrong: if we want to get technical, we could talk about the case that modular blockchains will save eth and a case the case that they’ll kill eth, but there’s a bigger point here. Nuance is the enemy of theses.
Finally, it doesn’t help either that I am throwing these words into a bear market, an emotional bear market where figures across the space are burning out from 24 hour cycles, scams dilute our attention, retail interest is drying, impossible valuations are requiring impossible returns, we muster our last embers of excitement for bored ape french fries, and making money is no longer making money: everyone has learned how to print sovereign currencies without quite figuring out how to monetize them. (Let’s leave aside a global war, rocketing inflation, a burning planet, and a plague—as your host here, I don’t want to be impolite.)
The only point I want to make is that I’m hoping to increasingly use writing as a way to teach myself—to break down difficult concepts to someone as ignorant as I am—and that I’d love you to be along for the ride. And if that means disagreeing or correcting me, all the better. These are, after all, forms of dialogue.
And in the meantime? I’ll keep using Twitter for threads exploring the social implications of increasingly niche topics in tech. But I’m going to try committing to writing more longer-form pieces again, partly because it’s the only way I can think effectively. If all goes well, I should have three pieces to share next week.
Above all, though, I’ll continue writing because it enables the perfect flywheel for having the kind of conversations that bring me real, lasting joy. I was wrong in thinking I could ever really write “for myself.” Everything I write comes out of dialogues with people I meet, and just as importantly, they enable me to meet others in turn. And this is what I’m most grateful for—getting to have an open conversation with everyone here.
Below, I’ve categorized essays and threads from the past year if there’s anything you’d like to check out, and as always, feedback, pushback, and skepticism is very welcome.
With incredible gratitude for the past year,
Visualizing Decentralization (June 9, 2021)
The Promised Land of the Singing Frog (June 16, 2021)
Against Scarcity (June 30, 2021)
The Internet As Religion (September 10, 2021)
The Twin Propellers of web3 (December 5, 2021)
You Are What You Own (January 23, 2022)
DAO challenges (September 29, 2021)
13 ways of looking at a DAO (October 27, 2021)
13 principles of web3 (October 29, 2021)
Why social investing fails—but succeedsd with NFTs (November 15, 2021)
Three moats in web3 (November 24, 2021)
12 ways DAOs beat corporations (December 17, 2021)
Legitimacy: the only web3 moat (January 25, 2022)
Ceramic: the data portability protocol (February 16, 2022)
12 ways decentralized encryption unlocks web3 (March 11, 2022)
The Future of Finance
User-Generated Finance (March 31, 2021)
Ray Dalio, Marxist (April 28, 2021)
Tiger Global and the Bear Case for Venture (May 5, 2021)
User-Generated Finance(s) (May 12, 2021)
Where Are We? Bubbles, Bubbles, Toils, and Troubles (May 19, 2021, with Annika Lewis)
Against the Democratization of Finance (July 21, 2021)
Collectivizing Finance (August 10, 2021, with Annika Lewis)
NFTs and Social Tokens
NFT Economics (March 27, 2021)
Use-Cases of NFTs: A Framework (July 7, 2021)
Three Use-Cases of NFTs (July 14, 2021)
The Currency of Community (July 29, 2021)
We’re (in) the money (August 26, 2021)
Social Consensus: The Only Moat
Futures Past (March 15, 2021)
The Legitimacy Crisis (April 7, 2021)
The End of Web2
The Unbundling of YouTube (April 14, 2021)
Fan Fiction and the Consumer-as-Creator (April 21, 2021)
Apple is a State (May 26, 2021)
The Case Against EdTech (June 2, 2021)
When Multiplayer Went Mainstream (June 23, 2021)
Pixar and the Myth of the Cornered Resource (November 8, 2021)
introducing ecodao (October 19, 2021)
it’s time to joke (January 19, 2022)
announcing BRUX ORIGINS (February 4, 2022)
notes on rounddao (abandoned proposal for democratized fund)
notes on delos (possibly-abandoned proposal for DAOs to offer decentralized classes)