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Aesthetics Community Finance

Day 863 Abstract The Pain Away

When I was a small child I attended meditation retreats with my parents. Hippies amirite? The particular branch practiced was some variant of Kashmir Shivaism, but I’ve got to imagine it was heavily edited for the consumption of white Boomers.

Who else would take a vacation to sit in silence, chant the Bhagavata Gita at 5am and practice sevā, all while having six year old children? Silicon Valley’s syncretic culture produces some weird hybrids. Seventies counter culture gave us some of the best religious revivals in American history.

If you didn’t catch the word sevā earlier it’s actually going to be the anchor of the post. Sevā as it was explained to me as a child at the ashram is selfless service. It’s work you do without expectation of reward. It is a dedication to others.

Practically it meant that anytime we lived at the ashram everyone contributed some set of work, mostly unskilled labor but not always, in the form of sevā. I did everything from food preparation and dish washing (working a commercial kitchen dishwasher is actually fun) to caring for some donated horses. I had fun summers as a child.

But the point was that everyone participated in some way to the functions of the ashram no matter who you were. And we did have some weird celebrities but that’s not the point. Sevā applied to us all. Though I’m sure glad I never looked too hard at the politics of finances of these ashtrays. Childhood innocence. As a child I just thought it was fun to contribute to the adult world.

But what I remember now is a sense of connection. That no aspect of these retreats was ever abstracted to far from me. The service was meant to bond you to an experience of a world bigger than yourself. And by recognizing that, you’d somehow connect more with others.

I try to remember that now when I am in lonely cities where every aspect of living with others is transaction. A food delivery service whisks you a meal in an hour in a country where you are an outsider without ties, bonds or service beyond the basic civilizational contract of capital markets.

The global cosmopolitan gloss of mobile applications have abstracted service away to the point where we can have an entire day of discourse about a man being sad a house cleaner washed a cast iron skillet but we can’t admit that we all pay for service as it cracks the facade.

We’ve got no sevā because that’s an expectation too great to hear. We can barely manage to pay a fee for service anymore. Imagine if we had to operate without intangibles. We can barely make Uber Eats function with taxes, tips, and services fees. Bless the markets for this freedom and curse it in the same breath.

Fuck the pain away? No, we abstract the pain away. No need to see who contributes anything. You can complain to a faceless chatbot cum customer service artificial intelligence about how some man on a bicycle didn’t deliver your order on time. The service lives below the machine now and has patience for frailty.

And yes I’m writing this because my Korean fried chicken and kimchi order got lost in a side street in Frankfurt for an hour or two.

Don’t worry the corporate entities that intermediated between me, the restaurant and the courier decided in my favor. The customer is always right as long as they have paid the fees to pretend that are lords.

All pain in the above transaction was abstracted away into some governance structure that decided it was worth 25 euro or so. One presumes some public market agreed on the price. I guess I did too. We all did.

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Community Startups

Day 854 and Silicon Diaspora

Silicon Valley is a place in Northern California. It’s also accurate to say that Silicon Valley is also a mindset that knows no geographic boundaries. If you will indulge me I’ve coined a term for this syncretic network state. I’m calling it the Silicon Diaspora.

While my family is from Boulder Colorado and I was raised there, because of my father’s startup ambition I ended up being born in Fremont California. It was a low rent neighborhood in Silicon Valley back then. Now it’s got a Tesla factory.

But we didn’t stay. My family and many others. Silicon Valley was such an inspiring landscape we sent missionaries to other cities and our diaspora took hold.

There are many types of nodes of varying sizes cities that include the Silicon Diaspora. And these nodes have a few key ingredients in common which attract the diaspora to them.

It’s worth getting to know some of elements that have allowed previous diasporas to thrive as it tells you how tight knit Silicon Valley social capital systems remain even in decentralized form.

BOULDER

I will start with Boulder. In the 90s, a movement was afoot to turn my hometown into a startup hubs as it was already benefitting from its proximity to several defense & aerospace industry players like Lockheed but also crucially was home to federal science labs like NIST, NCAR and NOAA.

The technical talent was then nurtured by investors at home. Boulder owes a great debt to Brad Feld and everyone at Foundry Group for this community. Boulder was and remains a crucial node in the diaspora.

MIAMI & AUSTIN

We’ve seen Austin and Miami rise during the pandemic years as founders and venture capitalists scrambled from Silicon Valley. Keith Rabois and Mayor Suarez willed Miami’s tech scene into existence almost overnight.

Austin’s history as a startup hub has its roots in semiconductor and hardware like Dell and Texas Instruments. Watch Halt and Catch Fire’s excellent depiction of Texas as a nexus for the Comdex years.

NEW YORK CITY

And lets not forget New York City as the hub in the late aughts and teens. This is where I spent most of my entrepreneurial career. We associate New York with more financial technology but it was a consumer company Foursquare that put New York on the map for venture. They also has a hometown hero fund Union Square Ventures’s theory of network effects. We had political support too. A very helpful mayor in Michael Bloomberg facilitated the growth of the New York node.

NEW NODES

I’m even seeing it now in Montana. Bozeman has a thriving startup scene buttressed by its popularity with some unique demographics like ex-military founders and retired venture capitalists. My husband goes to the weekly Bozeman Startup Slack meetup every Thursday.

Silicon Diaspora has many of its citizens in the mountain west (both Wyoming and Idaho have scenes) as those values align well with crypto, privacy and defense startups. I hope to be a part of nurturing Montana as a future node of the Silicon Diaspora.

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Community Internet Culture

Day 850 and Complicated

I’m coming off of a very intense week having been in Texas at a conference. I have a lot of integration work I need to do on the ideas and emotions I was exposed to during the week. If you weren’t following along I talk about erasure, inclusion and summer camp among other topics and I’d definitely click on erasure if you haven’t read it.

I’ve got some complicated emotions on how the wider crypto industry and our ambitions for decentralization and power sharing will play out. There was a lot more building energy and a lot less fluffy grifts but trust in any of what is being built is at an all time low. And it’s basically our fault. So that’s always fun.

There was talk of throwing the governmental eye of Sauron onto the artificial intelligence community so crypto can catch a breather. I felt like this was exceptionally dangerous as an attitude as I believe crypto only really matters if artificial intelligence succeeds as machines need machine money.

I’ve been doing a lot of work to seed what I consider to be genuinely underserved communities who have been excluded from mainstream computing’s benefits as I think we all deserve a say in how currency and monetary systems will work in the future. The dissidents range from the transgendered sex worker to insular religious communities.

Power sharing remains a challenge for humanity and our incentive structures are producing a number of second and third order problems. I remain committed to a pluralistic community that maintains appropriate boundaries and liberties. But I sure don’t know how I reconcile that some folks are hellbent on domination and submission.

Categories
Community Startups Travel

Day 849 and “Oh I Follow You!”

I’ve been in Austin for Coindesk’s Consensus crypto conference. I’m flying home to Montana today after five intense days of work. But if the on the ground reception is any indication, I nailed this year with my talks and vibes. I might actually be good at my job.

Conferences can be tricky if you are a speaker. You’re obligated to hold attention & entertain while also getting across complicated topics like governance contracts. It takes energy and preparation to do it well.

This year I was a bit less academic than last year as Marc Hochstein and I hosted an interactive town hall which was spicy as hell and my loud carnival barker voice carried. A bit bigger than just a talk and I think it was a hit.

By the end the room was packed with folks passing by and stopped to see what we were discussing. A bunch of smiling energetic faces and a loud lady in a full length dress is a bit eye catching out on a convention floor stage. I got so much positive feedback.

Heck, I was in a bathroom where I overhead an attendee discussing the panel the next day with a gentleman who was also panelist. The attendee raved to the panelist and said “that chick” really held everyone’s attention on topic. A good performance all around.

I called Consensus a “summer camp for adults” as it all your crypto friends get together for it. An expensive paid conference with a lot of talent and speakers makes for excellent serendipity. I felt like I made new connections and even a new friend or two.

It felt easy as in a small community someone like me gets to enjoy the benefits of niche fringe micro-celebrity. I kept hearing over and over “I follow you on Twitter” along with “she’s so funny on Twitter she says the shit you are thinking.” I’ve got to admit it feels good.

And I think it was fun for Alex who spent part of the week hearing folks tell him that while he’s great (and everyone loves his homesteading adventures) but they are really more excited to meet his wife. Dare I say I’m a trophy wife?

It’s super fun when your internet frens and parasocial relationships come together in actual reality. We were all happily saying “oh I follow you” to each other all week. I miss everyone already. But I’m happy to be home in Montana.

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Community Internet Culture Startups

Day 848 and Summer Camp

I’m not a camp kid. I’m told there exists a group of kids whose formative summer experiences are at summer camp and I’ve watched enough American television to have the gist of the genre. It looks fun.

Professional conferences appear to offer a similar experience to adults. You have a yearly event or two that gets together various sets of old colleagues and professional teams that then overlap with social and affinity groups. I’ve been at Consensus which is one of crypto’s many conferences but somehow one of its most inclusive.

It’s a bit of a crossover event where a lot of different factions put aside their differences and ask why the fuck are we here and what the fuck are we even building anyway. And the answer seems to be every kind of kid you’d expect at summer camp. We are building a pretty inclusive place with a lot of weirdos.

You’ve got the academic nuanced protocol dorks, the tradfi to defi chads, the solar punk regenerative commons open source projects, developer tool companies, analytics firms and graph data scientists, privacy and OpSec nerds, and even the baroque online misogynists. And me, who is, I guess, a chaos magic witch or a pre-seed venture investor if you are nasty.

Crypto is for everybody and sometimes we aren’t thrilled by everyone who shows up but we do our best to make sure everyone is included in the effort. Maybe we even help cool down the radicals and maximalists right? Maybe we can reach a consensus?

Everyone who is here this year is down for the fight. There are a millions reasons why skepticism of centralizing authority and panopticon states is good. Mostly it comes down to insisting on finding a trust layer that we can all agree on. Even if you are a racist weirdo online.

And I’d imagine most marginalized identities can understand the basic skepticism how big institutions. I’ve only got a few issues (disability and gender come to mind) and even I see how institutions turn a blind eye to our needs if we don’t stand up. So we’ve got to agree on a common set of civilizational rules. If a state can’t do that then we better build alternatives fast. Trust layers matter.

So I’m glad that I’m in an aligned fight for those basic ideals. We are fighting for a consensus in a pluralistic world. Because that’s one where we can all prosper. And speaking as someone at summer camp for utopians, it feels pretty good to be optimistic. Just give us a decade or two to keep fucking around and finding out. With enough of us competing we will get there.

Categories
Community Startups

Day 847 and Erasure

I hosted an interactive town hall for Consensus this afternoon. The topic was the path forward for building communities online, offline and IRL with cryptocurrency, decentralized autonomous organizations and maybe even network states.

I’ve been working on this town hall for several months. I worked with Marc Hochstein to refine the thesis question, build the flow and topics, bring together speakers from unique ecosystems and projects, and horse trade the various bit of social capital required to get interesting content out the door. I worked hard on it. I felt I was one of the owners of the panel.

Builders of new types of communities – online, IRL, and hybrids – roll up their sleeves and discuss how they’ve addressed challenges from 60,000-foot strategy to immediate on-the-ground tactics in a zero-trust world with high trust expectations. Topics include: governance and accountability; organic scaling through consensus (who and what decides on whether it is achieved); the architecture of sustaining and driving loyalty; navigating regulatory hurdles; uncertainty around novel governance structures; and managing information and workflows around who and what is trusted.

I was proud of my first question as I felt qualified to ask having once been the founder and leader of an organization. Conway’s Law is a familiar adage in software design. Simply put, what we build is a reflection of who we are and how we communicate with each other. So I opened the town hall with this as the thirty thousand foot view.

If what we build is a reflection of the organizations that build it, then crypto is a reflection of this room. Assuming you believe our goal is economic and monetary solutions for everyone willing to align with our reformation, are we living up to this ambition?

We had a lot of ground to cover. Issues of institutional distrust, transparency, governance, and decentralization’s promises for inclusion. But reactivity means we go to base emotions. An older woman asked the panel (not me though) why there weren’t more women on the panel. Needlessly to say I took that personally. Ain’t I a panelist?

I just brought the hammer down on this poor woman who wanted to call my panel a “manel” because lady it’s fucking erasure I worked for months to bring this group together, I’m on the stage as an expert, and you think don’t I count?

She said I was the moderator. Which like yeah it’s my fucking show because I have the expertise to bring the leaders together as I’m a peer. I shut it down as we had deeper questions on what inclusion means than Boomer feminism or Girlbossing woke-ism can manage.

The beauty of Bitcoin and Ethereum and the ecosystem of L2s like Stacks is any of us can validate what’s going on. There is no “man” or patriarchy or systemic oppression keeping you out of learning and using the tools. Maybe they reflect their builders who haven’t always been inclusive but now all of us together can earn and build like anyone else. We can make our tools reflect us by insisting on being seen.

I regularly have my background and expertise and existence questioned by everyone. And I just keep showing up. So I’d like to say sticking a girl on a panel does nothing for inclusion. But being a woman who organized a serious (ly) weird town hall on community should also mean my experience counts as much as anyone else’s.

I want everyone to count. You count. I count. Your gender or sexual orientation doesn’t discount you unless you discount yourself first. I regularly make sure I’m seen and I want you seen too.

The way to count is by speaking up and making sure that men aren’t the only ones who contribute. Don’t want to make your gender or sex a thing?

Go ignore gender & sex and & identity entirely and be an anon with a Milady pfp. I came to crypto to be a sovereign of my own body and choices. It’s your choice. None of us are victims.

I was amused as dozens of women came up to me after with enthusiasm about how we do inclusion in crypto because we don’t need to be restricted by Girlbossing or Boomer feminism. We include ourselves as the system is inclusive by design.

Decentralized systems include us all. And that’s a future they can’t exclude us from. Do you want to categorize every identity into perfect little corporate identities and slogans? I don’t. We can build a future where we are free to be you and me. Ok Boomer?

Categories
Community Homesteading

Day 839 and Chatty

I occasionally have the ambition to be less of chatty Cathy. I almost cannot help myself in Montana. I keep meeting folks who are into the same stuff as me and then I’ll just end up talking for an hour.

Introverted Julie somehow always finds the homesteader, science fiction, alternative economy, crypto libertarian aesthetic studies semiotics pirate at the party. Sometimes it’s even the same person (hi Frank). I’ve now found not one but two homestead curious folks at a spa. The same spa! (Hi Kylie & Lorraine!)

I’ve got a general philosophy in life that you should be a beacon. We are responsible for our light and maintaining it. But are we not equally responsible for shining it into the darkness?

I’d like to see my broadcasting into the abyss of the internet as being a sort of existential lighthouse. Perhaps my chatty nature is some form of the same ambition. I want my people to find me.

And wouldn’t you know it but I’m always finding people searching for the same things. I have so many pockets of knowledge. And I want to share what I know with you. I want you to share your knowledge with me too. Your world and your experiences will add to mine just as mine adds to yours. Like the Borg but decentralized.

I’ve got a lot of weirdly specific knowledge. You know, Julie Fredrickson shit. And I want the folks who need the light I’ve cultivated to find me. So I will broadcast.

I know how to be in my body even with illness. I know about inflammation and healing from post viral shit. I know about sovereignty and survival and independence. I know a thing or two about being a doomer and an optimist.

I’ve got weirder more specifics knowledge too. Ask me about corporate governance structures and decentralized autonomous organization. Or the most cost effective luxury unbranded retinols. Or what biometrics to track and on what devices.

The point is that I’m here to be a chatty Cathy. And if you’d like to talk just slide into my DMs on Twitter. Or email me. It’s my first name dot last name at gmail. Consider this your bat signal.

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Community Politics

Day 838 and Wanting

I am no longer interested in living by standards I didn’t set for preferences I don’t have.

Me on Twitter 😑

A lot of what Americans took for granted about the world got a hard dose of cynical reality over the last few years. But the upside of the pandemic was the reckoning it forced on all of it. I know I walked away from those years. changed.

I’d begun my own personal journey into the existential abyss earlier as I was faced with personal health crisis before the global one. And I’m glad I had a head start. It isn’t easy making hard choices.

I’ve learned to prioritize what matters to me. I have resource constraints and it has breed in me innovation and fortitude. I’m a whiney cunt about it too. Because I simply don’t see why I need to live my life for someone else’s preferences, especially if I don’t share them. I can chose to prioritize my life and my values. And I’m free to live that way too.

America as an ideal is nobler than our reality. But as a civilizational ideal we’ve set a society where we value the freedom to live as we chose. Maybe you don’t like my choices but if I’m not harming anyone live and let live.

I want to keep civilization. I think it’s good. I want no Hobbesian war of all against all. So let’s find a way to maintain tolerance and live and let live. Weirdos like me aren’t hurting anybody. And neither should you. Authoritarians please find succor elsewhere.

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Community

Day 835 and Weird

I was very inspired by a Twitter thread from Anna Gat last week on how the weirdos who had dealt with their identities were having an easier time as millennials hit forty. I thought it was so incisive I’ll include it in full here.

I’ve spent much of 2023 meditating on conformism. As old friends are turning 40, I notice a lot of nameless unhappiness brewing. Millennial unhappiness is a taboo. I always thought people chose norminess because there’s more individual contentment involved. I’ve changed my mind. I see: a fear of change, resentment, a feeling of being stuck, no way out. The Great Resignation / nomadism / self-employment trends / monogamy revolutions that we discuss here haven’t touch large swaths of the bourgeoisie. I see 40 year olds, with money, relations, just give up.
This upsets me surprisingly much because? Because I didn’t pay attention to this group, maybe, so I didn’t see it coming. I always thought normies had had it figured it out (while I hadn’t). Plus I know these people’s parents, I can see them morph into them too soon, unnoticed. Please, please, people: rebel.
It is not too late. You do matter. You don’t have to continue doing something that looked like a good idea 12 years ago if you found out you hate it. Change things. Get up. Move. Live.
Life goals: more experience, but not more bitterness. Hard!

If you haven’t figured out who you at some point that lack of work on yourself will catch up to you. I’ve always been a bit of a weirdo. I’m off. My version of reality matches other weirdo’s realities much better than consensus reality. I am alas not fully normie. I can be a normie in some areas but I’ve got too much “off” to fully be mainstream.

And I have to admit I’m happier for it. I’m happy to have a weird life. All my decisions that didn’t quite make sense at the time have yielded a life that is so much bigger than I ever imagined for myself that I’m think the power of being weird must be immense.

We are entering an era where everything is getting much weirder much faster than any one human can keep up with. And isn’t that just so exciting? And it may be a good thing because as the various tech and AI prognosticators will tell you an era of weirdening is upon us. We will all be hurtling into a weird new future and best we can hope for is that maybe some of it rhymes with history. Hang tight and stay flexible.

Categories
Community Media

Day 819 and Calculating Gravity

When astronomers discover a black hole they don’t get to it’s position by observing it directly. They calculate the position of it by its gravitational force on other bodies. We only know it’s there because of what it is doing to others.

I like this as a metaphor for a lot of things recently. I can calculate the gravity of a media narrative by calculating the gravity of all the players. Sometimes what you are being shown is simply the gravity of other players being acted on by something larger.

A good reason for owning a media property of any size, from Twitter to the New York Times, is that you can exert your gravity in ways that are much larger than your surface area might presume. A black hole is super dense. Please insert the required Elon Musk joke.

I’d like you to take this metaphor into your own life. See where you exert more gravity on life than someone might presume. You will discover a lot about your power in relation to individuals, your family, and your professional & personal organizations.

The center of gravity of a situation may not be apparent on first blush. But if you calculate out the positions and their orbits perhaps you can find a path that serves your needs. And most crucially one that serves your resources. If you can’t escape the event horizon you tend to get sucked in. So be sure you have done your fuel calculations too.