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Aesthetics Internet Culture

Day 260 and A Good Schtick

I admire a well executed gimmick. Being clearly branded has become a necessity in digital life. Living life at a scale larger than your local community turns out to require we communicate who we are for easier communication.

Mediocre marketing people will insist that you find areas you can “own” in planning materials for promotional campaigns. They want you to find a schtick. But you better like what you come up with as you will be forced to repeat your greatest hits ad nauseam.

It’s not that they are wrong. Repetition is pedagogy. Which is a fancy way of saying in order to teach you must repeat your lessons. Humans usually require hearing something a few times before the information will stick. But then it can be very hard to dislodge a piece of information that we’ve become convinced is true. That’s why it’s much harder to change a brand than it is to build one. We get indignant when we feel someone has mislead us with their brand.

That’s why you need to be very sure if you are going to dig into a schtick. The temptation to go full Tucker Carlson or Rachel Maddow can be tempting. It’s seems like it’s an easier path to attention and awareness if you develop a clear point of view. But be warned, if you change it people will get mad at you. If you explore shades of grey you will get called a hypocrite. Nuance is the enemy of clarity. And clarity is required to reach big audiences.

I swear half of cancel culture is just assholes who don’t understand that their friends may see them as whole empathetic humans who are more than their schtick but the masses won’t. And remember you too are a member of the masses and judge others hypocrisy just as harshly as they judge yours. That’s like the basis of all Abrahamic religions. If the golden rule was easy we probably wouldn’t need to attend various worship services regularly.

So if you see someone with a good schtick admire it. But recognize it’s a Faustian bargain. They sanded off some portion of the wholeness of their being in order to be easier to understand. And if they drop some portion of that gimmick in the course of their lives it’s worth showing a little grace to them. You’ll appreciate it when you require the same.

Categories
Finance Internet Culture

Day 220 and Crypto’s Publicist Part 2

Yesterday I wrote about my proposal to create an activist DAO to engage in public relations for crypto. The goal of the organization would be to create a groundswell of support for the space, it’s values, and opportunities as well as engaging in support for a more positive regulatory environment.

If you would like to hear more about why I think it is time for the wider decentralized crypto community to engage in a public relations and media campaign please see my post yesterday. Today I am putting down further notes on what I think our values and priorities might be. As always, this blog is a work in progress so consider this my thoughts as of now that are open to being edited and changed.

What kind of values are crucial in a PR or communication DAO or interest group?

  • Open
  • Participatory
  • Trustless

It’s important that whatever we do on behalf of crypt it must be done in the spirit of the space and why so many disparate types of people believe in its values. While there may be structures like executive teams, core teams, board members and studios and contractors to execute on our mission we want to use the tools and transparency of crypto.

But to what purpose are we organizing? We will create content and engage in conversations to shape media narratives and public sentiment aimed at promoting the positive elements, potential, and impact of crypto.

How will we do this? We will hire publicists to promote our stories in mainstream media along with commissioning content meme-ers and creators to share opinions. We will engage with spokespersons to share talking points created from the priorities of the community. We will place our content, from memes to editorials, on our own properties as well as in supporting communities and member publications.

I expect I’ll be doing quite a bit more note taking and research. If you want to be a part of this effort I’ve started a shared Google doc for collaboration. Email me Julie @ chaotic dot capital or DM me @ AlmostMedia. This won’t be built in a day but together we can push it forward.

Categories
Finance Internet Culture Media Politics

Day 219 and Crypto’s Publicist

Most industries have interest groups. Publicists, lobbyists, and spokespeople weave together stories, talking points and preferred legislative agendas. Anyone or any group is free to discuss why their preferred business or issue is worthwhile and convince others of their view. We have a marketplace of ideas. Sure, not all interests are good but anyone is free to promote what they believe in. So why aren’t we doing anything for our cause in the crypto community? I say it’s time crypto had a publicist.

Not every country allows for this. The crypto community has an obligation to recognize that when we fight for our own interests it isn’t just we who benefit. The entire world benefits from open, decentralized and permission-less systems. What we do benefits everyone who wants to live in a freer world. It’s time crypto had our own activist DAO to protect and promote our values.

I am proposing the formation of an activist DAO promoting the use of crypto. Our goal is to advocate for positive popular culture narratives about crypto. We vote on our issues, stories and key initiatives through the DAO’s native governance tokens. The DAO will hire publicists and communication professionals to promote our stories in mainstream media along with commissioning content meme-ers and creators to share opinions. Policy is crucial but public perception is faster and pushes the right policy down the right.

As place holder I’ve purchased CryptoCommsCoalition.org. The Crypto Communication Coalition. I am working on a shared collaboration doc in Google Sheets to collect input, feedback, and priorities. Anyone who is interested can participate in our effort. Email me Julie @ crypto comms coalition dot org or DM me on Twitter.

We need DAO creation specialists, legal experts, memers, streamers, Reddidters, governance folks, publicists, lobbyists, fundraisers and a thousand other specialists I haven’t thought of yet. This won’t be easy but it’s an eating our own dog food moment for crypto. We can use our own tools to advocate in a participatory, transparent and open way for our own interests. If banking and big oil can can afford publicists then so can we. gmi.

Categories
Internet Culture

Day 212 and Notes for A Unified Theory of Shitposting

Yesterday I was fucking around on Twitter, as I am prone to doing. I made a barely sit-com worthy joke about divorced guy energy.

You ever notice how women thrive in the aftermath of divorce but men implode? Why is that?

My husband Alex replied with a searing burn “don’t worry, I’ll be fine” response and we were off to the races with all our mutuals dunking. I was howling with laughter. The two of us were trading zingers and watching the DMs roll in from friends.

Obviously the undercurrent of any thread on social media got dark very fast. So quickly I ended up putting out resources for men who were struggling in the replies. The amount of pain on display was enough to make you want to donate to the first domestic abuse charity I could find.

So why is it that I can shitpost about a topic and come away unscathed, indeed it was a fun and entertaining night for both myself and Alex, but others melted down? I think it might be about class and social signaling. It takes a lot of social capital to shitpost. And those that shitpost on the most socially contentious topics are demonstrating their social capacity to discuss whatever they want without consequences. I can shitpost because I’ve got enough social capital to do so.

One theory I’ve got is that shitposting is a backlash to Ted Talks, super serious reverential coverage in glossy business magazines, and the proliferation of HBS style “business” books. We’ve had an saturation in performative professionalism.

Once it became unclear that every self seriousness biography or magazine puff piece was placed by professionals to make their clients look like geniuses (visible effort undermines certain kinds of status) the savvy social seeker knew they needed a more authentic way to telegraph in-group power. The next logical step was demonstrating that you were so smart, so powerful and so connected you didn’t even need to demonstrate it. Hence the shitpost.

The weirdest part of “shitposting” being an actual status symbol in venture capital is that a couple of billionaires are going to see me and Alex making jokes about divorced guy energy and this will only increase our status. Which is ludicrous on its face ans yet absolutely true.

This isn’t even a flex on my part (though it obviously is a flex) as it is now accepted that having a following for saying whatever you like gives you a leg up in startups. A friend likened it to “dressing down” or the practice of wearing causal clothing even in formal settings. It shows you are so powerful and wealthy you don’t need to give a fuck about manners. Shitposting on Twitter is like wearing ripped jeans at the country club.

I want to explore this topic in more depth so this post is just some sketch notes. But I wanted to get it down and organized so I hope it’s alright to have some half baked ideas. It’s my blog so I figure it’s fine b

Categories
Media

Day 171 and Publicists

I have a number of portfolio companies and clients for whom I do some of their public relations work. I don’t advertise myself as a publicist but I am very good at the work. I typically only do strategic work and media relations so please don’t ask me to pitch you.

The tricky part is usually convincing the people I work with to trust my instincts and not, you know, the actual act of working with the media. I do a lot of heavy lifting and training to prepare people to have something useful to say in public.

People who have no experience getting attention typically struggle emotionally with the fact that they don’t necessarily matter to the media. They get grumpy that people who they perceive as being “less” get coverage they don’t deserve.

Of course, we don’t always know what is going on behind the scenes. We don’t know what stories were told to writers or by whom. And attention tends to beget attention. So once someone is featured regularly in the media they tend to stay there. They become a trusted source.

But becoming one of those characters that gets quoted or featured a lot is hard work. Occasionally you get a lucky break, but it’s a bit like getting hired for an entry level job that requires two years of experience. It seems impossible! They are two distinct states right? Either you have experience or you are entry level. The same problem exists in media.

There is a tension in how public relations works and how media sees it’s subjects. To get featured in the press you need to be either ubiquitous or “newly discovered” and no you cannot be both. Those are distinct states.

If you haven’t yet been covered you are definitionally not ubiquitous. I know seems obvious right? But that means it’s much harder to get quoted as an expert or featured in lists or others become part of a story. The regular mentions in media usually go to people who are already trusted sources. So how do you become a trusted source? You need to be discovered.

Being a new fresh face with a brand new story is catnip to media. So if you have a good story it tends to benefit you to keep that story under wraps until you find a media outlet that will give you enough attention to justify telling your story. You want a feature that can deliver you to ubiquity. Because once you tell it you will no longer be “discoverable” any more. I guess it’s a little bit like how purity culture religions think of virginity. And yes this process feels as icky.

This means you need to make the jump from discoverable new face straight to ubiquitous to get the kind of regular media coverage you imagine a publicist can secure for you. It’s a weird quantum state situation. And top tier publicists are often quite good at threading that needle to get you from new story to phenomena. It doesn’t just happen though. It’s strategic and planned out like a military campaign.

That’s why publicists sign longer term contracts. If they deliver small stories that can be placed in a month long contract they cannot deliver you a big feature. Features take weeks if not months. A research piece takes a long time. A glossy spread in Vogue is usually pitched 3-4 months in advance.

So the temptation is to go for short stories. Those are good right? Well not always. Tell your big story in something small that has less attention then you’ve lost your shot at ubiquity. Doing little stories that didn’t break you into public consciousness, in your eagerness to just get covered now, means you wasted your shot. You’ve been featured just enough that reporters won’t perceive you as being a fresh new face. No reporter wants to tell the same story as another. So you’ve screwed yourself without even realizing it.

So do yourself a favor if you want to get attention. Listen to the advice of the professionals. Being a media darling doesn’t usually just happen. And it’s often on the advice and planning of professionals that probably know more than you do.

Categories
Aesthetics Emotional Work Internet Culture Politics

Day 134 and A Short Guide to Being An Edgelord

As my friend Seyi wisely said; sometimes your life gets chosen for you and sometimes you choose your own life. So try to chose your own life as often and as soon possible before someone else does. This challenge seems especially relevant as the culture wars rage on and regular peons like you and I can become collateral damage.

I’ve known for a while that I wasn’t going to be a fit for institutional settings like big tech corporations or civil service. I struggle to to be anything but myself. I mouth off too much. I’m not very good at kissing the ring. It’s not that I can’t engage in behaviors or manners you’d expect, I merely find it tiring. I’m also saddled with some physical limits. I’ve got the kind of medical conditions that gets a lot of virtue signaling from corporate communications types but isn’t really all that appealing except as a token. So unless I wanted to be miserable in middle management I knew I needed to opt out of the game. And that meant winning on my own terms.

Here is a harsh truth that the panic mongers in the cancel culture debate don’t want to say out loud. You cannot expect to survive a system and certainly not a culture war unless you take sides. Humans are riddled with bias and institutional self preservation is strong. The only side you should take is your own.

But you must accept that choosing your own life has consequences. Living out loud as the full uncensored you may cut off certain opportunities just as it opens new ones. Be aware of this reality and do not complain that you are a victim of circumstances when you have more choice than you realize. I’m not suggesting all areas are open to everyone nor that we shouldn’t fight for legal rights and protections. Merely that we are limited as individuals by the cultures and institutions of our time. Social mores move slowly even when pressed by revolutionaries.

My best advice? If want to be an edgelord. Be a real one. Go full crypto. Middle finger to the law. Fuck the police. Start a newsletter with monetization. Find your tribe. Learn some practical homestead skills.

You want to play corporate ladder? Play by those rules. There are dress codes and “ways things are done” and hierarchical structures you must obey. Get their credentials and be excellent at the values the organization wants.

You cannot straddle both worlds. This didn’t used to be a controversial statement. It wasn’t an affront that you had to put on a suit and say “yes sir” until pretty recently. Sometimes you just have to play the game. Go read the 48 laws of power and get back to me.

Trying to express who you are publicly if it’s not within bounds of the institutional norms might get you fired. Or maybe you take a stand that gets you promoted if you judge what norms can be pushed. Depends on the institution. So know that if you set onto the path of “choosing your own life” the consequences might be a lack of access and options. Or it might open you up to an entirely new world where you work and live with people who like you. But straddling the middle is recipe for emotional misery.

If I were you I’d begin to do the work to walk the path of the life you want now. Before someone else chooses for you.

Categories
Aesthetics Chronicle

Day 116 and Taking Up Space

I take up a lot of space. I spend time on social media because there is so much space you can literally be the President or a celebrity billionaire industrialist and there are still corners of the web you don’t penetrate. There is a lot of room for loudmouths, so much so that even someone like me still has plenty of room. I barely rate on the Elon Musk attention scale. Even when I’m screaming at best I crack into D-list zeitgeist. It’s like the privacy that comes with living in New York City. You can have some notoriety but the web doesn’t care. I like how you can feel alone.

The irony of course is that I think no one is paying attention to me. I think I’m an average Joe nobody that no one ever notices. This despite the fact that I am paid to be an expert in getting attention. No literally I cost a fortune (I’m worth every penny) but I’m somehow convinced I’m invisible personally. I can feel lost in a lonely world where I’m not even sure the people that love me the most can see me. I’m stuck in some lonely portion of my childhood where I felt abandoned so I’m replaying it out now as an adult. It’s not great but I get something from it.

Except this is a fantasy that is not true. I’m not that child anymore and I know how to get attention. I’m not alone. Even when I’m not consciously drawing energy to myself, people do see me. I can simply be myself and be seen. I command attention. It’s who I am.

You always think as a kid you will get some cool superpower like laser eyes or flying but nope you are going to get a super power like public relations or brand marketing. And honestly, when I’m not a self pitying victim I know those to be awesome super powers. You can make money and direct business and politics with those super powers. I just though I’d get something a little more aesthetic you know? It’s dope but also like adult superpowers are a letdown for your inner child.

I just need to remind adult me that I am seen. That even my normal personality not exerting her will force onto the universe is actually still quite visible. I can just exist and I’ll be holding space for myself. And it’s a good space with plenty of room for all of me. And still intimate enough to feel the love around me.

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Chronicle Internet Culture Media Startups

Day 84 and The Thursday Styles Problem

The Thursdays Styles problem is about zeitgeist, wealth perception and power. The New York Times publishes its “styles” section on Thursdays and Sundays. Generally speaking if you work in media, public relations or culture you are aware of the general trends that will emerge on Thursday ahead of time. For the sake of argument let’s say I know directionally on Tuesday what will be featured on Thursday.

If you know “what everyone knows everyone knows” ahead of time there is a lot of money to be made a Tuesday person. For more on the second derivative issues in zeitgeist I highly recommend Epsilon Theory. If you can sense the zeitgeist ahead of time & move to take advantage of it you can be a Tuesday person. Alas it’s not as lucrative as you may imagine to be a Tuesday person. A Thursday person who lives exactly on the zeitgeist can take advantage of the moment culture moves. Good entrepreneurs do this well. Most consumer companies hit “right on time.”

This is why venture capitalists will ask “why now” as they may have invested in a Tuesday Person who hit the zeitgeist too early and couldn’t capitalize on it. It really pisses off the founder who knows “but I was first.”

As a Tuesday person I hate when this happens. I loathe seeing people I perceive as less capable or intelligent than me hit a zeitgeist moment exactly on Thursday. The trouble is they are right. They won. They got the timing right. I didn’t.

And yes being a Thursday mover is good. But it’s crucial to understand who can win this game. The only way to win the Thursday Styles problem is to be in finance, media or culture work that can place a call option on the Thursday future on Tuesday. You have to be able to hold an opinion on the future zeitgeist long enough for Thursday to get published.

If you cannot hold your zeitgeist long enough for Tuesday to become Thursday when “everyone knows everyone knows” being right early serves no benefit. You need diamond hands. And yes you will be wrong 9 times out of 10. If the New York Times cuts a piece and it takes another week can you hold out? If the markets don’t make a Tuesday idea hit can you wait till it becomes common knowledge on that metaphorical Thursday?

It requires patience to be a Tuesday person. Knowing you will look wrong for a bit. That you will lose money when Tuesday knowledge takes longer to become Thursday Style’s common knowledge. If you can hold it’s the ultimate form of future leverage. That’s alpha.

And better yet it’s “possible” to manipulate. Publicists make their clients on Tuesday shine on Thursday. And capture the upside. Folks who are extremely online spot how market makers make zeitgeist hit. Cathie Wood at ARK Innovations has been playing the media in exactly this way. The largest experiment in making Tuesday thinkers hit before Thursday is Margit Wennmachers at a16z. Centralizing zeitgeist and monetizing it with future calls with narratives they tell on platforms they own stakes in has massive potential. The smart money is turning their Tuesday zeitgeist into Thursday Styles and taking it to the bank.

Categories
Chronicle Media Politics

Day 83 and Tribalism

For what are probably obvious reasons (a mass shooting inside a grocery store a few miles from my home) I’ve been trying to keep off of political media the past day or so.

I’ve mostly succeeded but it’s a challenge when my primary relaxation space, Twitter, is saturated with commentary on a topic I don’t want to discuss with anyone that isn’t also living through the trauma personally. It’s not even that I don’t want to hear from folks it’s more that even if you have had a similar tragedy in your community your reaction may not be the same as ours. Every trauma is unique even when cultural circumstances may not be.

I bring this up only because I realized today when a new app claiming to analyze your news bubble filter went viral I didn’t know what folks “thought that I thought” about politics. The app said I was 100% leftist in my filter. My immediate reaction was “bullshit” in that I probably tweet once a day “as a libertarian” and regularly discuss my views on small government. So I asked folks what direction they thought I leaned. There is not a lot of consensus so far.

I follow and am followed by a very diverse group of people. I probably follow everything from alt-right fanatics to avowed socialists. I socialize with bro-science masculine fitness folks and queer chronic disease and disability advocates. So I’m not surprised I am hard to place. If you are a trad life carnivore on a homestead your opinion on my politics is probably pretty different than if you are a healthcare for all anti-ableism urbanite. I work with Silicon Valley folks and venture capitalists and the New York media establishment. Finance and the press corp are not generally politically aligned so unsurprisingly those two groups may also think I’m in a very different place on the spectrum. To someone at war with the media I may look left wing. To someone in the media I may look right wing. And yes this comes out in the wash as centrist.

The reality is that I have fairly nuanced views and your take on my leanings may say more about how much you like me and thus how much you want me to agree with you. This is for a nice reason. We tend to like the people we agree with more.

So it’s possible if you want me to like you then you may assign me views that are more aligned with yours than I am in reality. Don’t fret though we can strongly disagree and I will still like you. If we have fun together on social media I don’t need you to agree with me on social or political issues. I spend time on social precisely because I do like all kinds of people and I want to enjoy that incredible diversity of humanity. And we are all here because in the end the only thing that keeps the loneliness at bay is each other.

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Chronicle Internet Culture

Day 65 and Shitposting

Being emotionally vulnerable in public is one of best things I’ve ever done in my life. The second best is easily shitposting.

If you are not extremely online (how did you get here) shitposting is the deliberate act of soliciting a response online. It’s traditionally used as a lower effort way to shape engagement and discourse. Partially because social media has made sharing opinions so easy, the act of crafting a nuanced argument and presenting it to an interested audience has become equally weighted to attracting supporters and advocates.

This isn’t as terrible as it sounds. Audiences can be built by anyone now. Shitposting allows creators who have a firm grasp on concise and comprehensible language to get across their point to anyone. Rather than suffering through pontification by elevated voices protected by institutional gatekeepers, we can hear bursts of truthful hilarity from nobodies. Think of it as somewhere between “the emperor has no clothes” and “from the mouth of babes.”

Having a firm grasp of the shitpost has elevated my voice in a way I’m not sure any amount of power or prestige could have done. Sure on the internet no one knows you are a dog but also don’t know you are a woman either (avatars aside). Quick bursts of wit can penetrate in a way that centuries of systemic bias simply can’t do.

The shitpost is always provocative but generally the best ones are in service to an obvious truth. This is culturally a part of meme sharing. Memes gain traction because they are immediately comprehensible despite containing layers and layers of deep context. In this way they resemble our richest multimedia experiences. It isn’t quite “a picture is worth a thousand words” because shitposta can often be Tweets but there is something to the truth that descriptors and adjectives just can’t reach. Meme and shitposts are often quite funny as humor is the fastest way to be legible to a large audience. But it isn’t necessarily a prerequisite.

Shitposting is also inherently anti-authority. It makes no calls to justice or power. It implodes sacred cows. I suspect one of the reasons I don’t believe in cancel-culture as a massive threat is because any anonymous asshole can put out the fever of a mob.

I highly recommend doing more Shitposting. Start in your private chats if you aren’t brave enough to do it on named profiles. Or create an anonymous account. Just start getting your truest stupidest thoughts out there. You won’t regret it.