Internet Culture Startups

Day 236 and Founders Who Write

A heuristic I’m playing with for assessing founders is how good they are at writing.

And while this approach to vetting a founder is a practical method (everyone writes) it’s obviously limited. But I think it is nevertheless sufficient for reaching an approximation of founder capacity in a swift and asynchronous way. I like to see examples of founder writing whether it is Tweets, blog posts, technical documentation or a Notion document.

It’s my belief that we’ve overweighted salesmanship, pitching & synchronic communication methods (remember reality distortion fields) which has led to prioritizing messianic style founders. A rousing keynote speech used to be the gold standard. But this may be less relevant as teams go fully remote and more work is done asynchronously. Your capacity to document and communicate meaning at scale is crucial as a founder.

The canonical example of a founder who telegraphed competence and meaning through writing was Joel Spolsky. The Joel on Software blog established him as ur technical writer and gave us documentation culture which blossomed in Stack Overflow.

A more recent example for me is Devin Finzer who I discovered through his technical writing. Long before OpenSea was a clear winner in the NFT space, Devin’s writing caught my attention as his crisp clear articulation on the basics non-fungible tokens was legible to everyone.

My guess is this heuristic of focusing on writing instead of showmanship will improve overall diversity of founders & companies in a portfolio as less bias creeps into asynchronous documentation whereas mirroring & social cues easily tilt pitching in favor of certain classes of people

I’m also keen on folks who like messaging culture. Being able to hop in and out of conversations is crucial to team building & scaling. Those that are happy to DM & chat to build rapport in distributed fashion more easily will succeed at building relationships in a remote first world.

Internet Culture

Day 234 and Information Poisoning

Do you ever read a tweet and check the person’s mutuals to make sure you understand the context?

Because I follow a number of extremely different communities with wildly different priors, it’s actually quite a challenge to see if someone is black pilled, red pilled, tankie or neo reactionary.

I consider it crucial to keep a balance of crazies in my timeline lest I accidentally get pilled by one group simply by mere exposure bias.

That’s a good argument for following as diverse a group as possible. A full timeline is one with a thousand biases blooming. This is good for keeping an open mind but it is also a protective technique known as flooding the zone. It is much harder to determine where one’s sensibilities lay if they consider counsel from all.

The downside is that we call people out for following “wrong think” in some corners. The only way to inoculate against that risk is heavily telegraphing that you follow all kinds. Impossible to show purity so to protect from any charges you muddy the waters.

I’ve noticed that progressive tech & red pillers are especially gnarly about policing for thought purity. It is relatively easy to fight back against, but then you have to be committed to seeing ALL zeitgeist which is exhausting.

I had to stop consumption for 48 hours last week. Floating above the discourse generally stokes my creativity. I live on the energy of the zeitgeist. But a few issues (vaccines & Kabul) are so upsetting that I just had to stop and recenter.

I think I have what might be labeled natural immunity to discourse. It doesn’t usually hurt my emotional state. For me, discourse functions more as a barometer of positions I follow to indicate long term movements.

Very rarely does it overcome my long term stakes. When it does it’s usually because I have information poisoning. It doesn’t happen too often. And I can shake it fast. But it’s not easy to cultivate for most people. I think it might be innate. That natural immunity I mentioned. Some people just have a higher tolerance for information toxicity and flow rates. Best to find out what yours is and to sense in others their informational environment as well. It’s edge.

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.

Chronic Disease Emotional Work

Day 198 and Kindness from Strangers

I’ve written about how terribly I’ve felt physically for the past 6 straight days. The last positive day of writing I had was 8 days ago. People have noticed the emotional tone of this struggle.

Generally speaking a day or two of being down doesn’t get noticed on social media, but a continuous streak of being “off” tends to get noticed by your community. Your mutuals know who you are even from afar. Your mutuals see your struggles. Your mutuals may know more about you than you imagine. And I’ve found your mutuals may genuinely care about you.

I’ve never felt less alone than I have the past year under quarantine. Maybe it’s because the network of mutuals that shares their personality and life has spent more time on the give and take of commenting, posting, responding and messaging across social media. When we are forced to contend with our own inner emotional lives we can extend more empathy to others.

So while others may have seen politicization, partisanship and other externalized anger on social media, I’ve found mostly grace and kindness. People who I have never met in the flesh have shared their knowledge, their vulnerability and their network with me. When I have opened myself up I have been met with with compassion and understanding.

If you share a period of struggle and your desire to get out from under it you may not be far from help. The kindness of your community is within reach. Even, perhaps especially, your social media community. If you are hurting share that burden. I have and it is much lighter.


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.

Aesthetics Internet Culture

Day 167 and the Naughties

I arrived in New York City in January of 2006. The aughts were an interesting time to be in New York. The recovery from 9/11 gave the city a sense of resilience but the Great Recession hadn’t reshaped the financial landscape of the country just yet.

I moved to Manhattan because I wanted to work in fashion. I didn’t have any relevant experience. I’d studied economics. But I was a blogger and that turned out to be enough to find a way in.

I met a man in the comments section of our respective fashion blogs as back then back links were an acceptable form of socializing. We both moved to the city the same week. He would become my cofounder on a fashion media startup and also my boyfriend. Yes it’s as dysfunctional as it sounds. Don’t worry we are still friends.

We’ve got a lot of fond memories of the Aughts. New media was just coming into its own. The possibility that it might change industries like fashion seemed exciting and democratic for style. No one had figured out how to grift by “influencing” yet. Which meant actual influence was still possible.

That first generation of bloggers was more influential in moving industries like culture than the commercial milieu we have now. Less lucrative certainly but the impact was significant. Good stuff actually emerged from living instead of someone imitating living.

My friend (the ex and cofounder) are considering writing a chronicle of our time. Partially it’s an exercise in nostalgia. It was a lot of fun. Maybe it’s a bit of an ego trip to think we could’ve even write some fiction that ties together the ethos and the aesthetics of that moment.

Back then we hadn’t cracked up the media industrial complex into algorithms and big automated ads dollars. A lot more got done in restaurants, bars and parties. The city itself hadn’t turned over into the complete plutocracy that dominates now. The kleptocrats needed the financial industry to implode and get bailed out for that kind of real estate takeover. Before the bailouts maybe the rest of us good maintain the delusion that we too could strike it rich. Now the distance is too great.

It was an era when Condé Nast mattered. Finance was a thing the cute guys with ambitions for money did, not yet a space that was entirely populated by Hedge Fund guys set on moving to Planet Billionaire.

And holy fuck the parties were great. Classes mingled more without the stratification that came out of the Great Recession. You could be someone even if you lived in a shitty barely heated no hot water squat loft on Bowery. It still cost $1600 but better than the 16K a month I saw it go for recently. You could get into club if you had some style. Instead of convincing people you mattered because you had a bunch of followers you had to convince someone you were cool.

I know this all sounds like bullshit old person nonsense mumbling about past good times. So if we do write about the Aughts it will take a lot better writing to make it compelling. I think it’s possible as I still retain a sense of place that I think is worth sharing. I’ve got ridiculous stories that could make for a fun read. So I’m putting the energy into the universe that I’ll capture those moments and share.

Aesthetics Finance Internet Culture

Day 150 and Hypersigils

In the beginning there was the word……or the command line. Naming a thing used to be the literal path to power. Now we are pretty meh about the whole thing. Ritual magic is kind of a satanic panic middle brow thing in America even though we have a history of throwing in with prosperity theology. We’ve got entire evangelical communities dedicated to naming and belief with the expectation it will generate wealth and manifest prosperity. The meme magic folks who wished Trump into office were really just regurgitating Norman Vincent Peale prayers. Plenty of folks like to blame this kind of magic on like Max Weber with his Protestant Work Ethic but I’m mixed on it as I don’t think he envisioned Pentecostals when he said hard work was a moral good.

A friend of mine who knows my interest in both capitalism and its underlying energy in culture suggested I watch an old talk from illustrator and comic book author Grant Morrison.

Honestly you should pop it out and watch the whole thing if you have any interest in creation. But especially if you are interested in chaos. He discusses a term he coined called a Hyper Sigil. He is building on contemporary chaos magic which isn’t too far off from manifestation theology. He contends that bodies of art but really any form of creative work can be turned into collective signs of meaning with willpower and force. He literally means they are magic and if this interests you go read Ray Sherwin and Peter J Carroll. If that doesn’t no biggie the following point still stands. We have sigils in America that are pretty literally manifestations of power.

Corporate sigils are super-breeders. They attack unbranded imaginative space. They invade Red Square, they infest the cranky streets of Tibet, they etch themselves into hairstyles. They breed across clothing, turning people into advertising hoardings… The logo or brand, like any sigil, is a condensation, a compressed, symbolic summoning up of the world of desire which the corporation intends to represent… Walt Disney died long ago but his sigil, that familiar, cartoonish signature, persists, carrying its own vast weight of meanings, associations, nostalgia and significance.

I’ve completely fallen down a Grant Morrison hole as this kind of thinking is crucial to work in attention economy trades like communications, public relations and marketing. But I’m frankly a lot more interested in the practical aspects of how he conceives of himself as a chaos magician and how he we can all affect the reality around us. I’ve purchased his Invisibles comic. When he says imagination is the fifth dimension he literally means it. Multiversity is rad.

Internet Culture

Day 139 and Saving The Insights

One of the unexpected aspects of having audience, even a small one, is wanting your good shit to be saved for them. I regularly find myself saying shit to my friends or my husband only to stop myself and say “that needs to go on Twitter!” And then occasionally to their chagrin I will open the app and attempt to condense the insight or joke into 140 characters. If it’s a longer point I’ll open up WordPress and attempt to get the thesis on paper.

A significant upside to saving good shit for an audience is that you have a written record. There is no worse feeling than completely losing an insight because you didn’t write it down. I dislike phone calls or Zooms because I’m not a natural born note taker. If I’m just shooting the shit I’m prone to forgetting whatever I just said. I can spend an hour feeling like I’ve really dug into a point only to find myself with complete amnesia because I neither shared it nor did I get a note down. By stopping myself and recording it to social media I find I retain more of the good stuff. I guess I’ve accidentally created a workflow where my note taking system is posting it to Twitter. Sorry Evernote turns out the killer feature for note taking was actually having reply guys.

This system of trusting an audience to have immediate access to your good shit does takes some getting used to. I’ve written about my fondness for shitposting as an inherently healthy emotional act. Sharing who you are without any filtering is scary. But it’s a muscle that can be developed. When I am working with portfolio companies or my communications clients I encourage them to just start getting content out on whatever platform is easiest for them. I picked Twitter as I’m most comfortable with written formats but I obviously also find blogging on WordPress to be easy. Instagram or more visual platforms make me anxious. Formal platforms like LinkedIn make me second guess every word. For me immediate unpolished platforms where I can just say shit is the way.

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.

Internet Culture Media

Day 95 and Context Collapse

I have reasonably high social intelligence. Yes I’m willing to flex on this. I’m able to suss out the contours of most situations quickly and code switch my language, aesthetic and context cues. Sure as a white woman in America’s vast “upper middle class” many social interactions and norms are designed for my comfort. But I spend time in spaces that are very much designed to exclude like finance. But I rarely feel out of place as I can find some point of intersection that allows me to find purchase with the leader (or norm setter) that sets a group’s context. To say that this is beneficial is an understatement.

I recently came across a piece of writing titled “A Theory of Collision Spaces” written by scientist who goes by the handle Generativist. The intended audience is folks who think probabilistically or at least have a firm grounding in computational thinking but if you have a head for logic you should be fine. The topic is how social media can do often lead to what is called “context collapse” but you might recognize as “people screaming at each other in bad faith in the comments section.”

The premise of context collapses is that online we may theoretically interact with infinite possible audiences. Infinite contexts makes it much harder for us to adjust or code switch such that we can telegraph that we care about the audience to whom we are speaking. It’s not impossible but it’s much harder. This is how one can make a statement that sounds innocuous but will end up pissing off some group that will come down hard on you. If the reaction is bad enough some audiences call it cancel culture.

Because I have a high social intelligence I’m less prone to getting caught in a context collapse situations. A quick scan of a profile and a few sentences of text is generally enough for me to subtly adjust my language and response. Of course, I cannot adjust for how others respond to me but I can respond to how they respond to me.

Think if it as second derivative social signaling. Limiting the possible permutations enables safety driven actions on my part. While I cannot survive an internet mob (no one can) even a tweet that goes reasonably viral is still bounded by social cues. The more adaptive you are at these cues the less likely you are to instigate a context collapse.

A lot of reasonable people have concluded that context collapse and internet mobs make social interactions on the internet too risky. The likelihood of encountering someone who will go splat against your reality and make a fucking thing out of it is none zero.

But I’d argue you have a weighting bias issue for the magnitude of the risk. You are much more likely to build something of worth from being social than you are to become “canceled” and I think this Theory of Collision Spaces essay just might convince even the twitchiest rationalist groupie. Why? Ensemble learning and computer mediated relationships are super powers for humans. Our ability to extend our thinking has two powerful tools in this era. We can learn from others. And our tools like our computers and their application layer act as extensions of our mind. But don’t my word for it. Nothing I can say will remotely compare to the paper as I’m just not as smart as this scientist.

So you get that social media has many opportunities for expanding our mind. So how do we become comfortable with the perceived risk? One point I want to get across here is that assuming all interactions online are bad makes for poor heuristics. So why is it not as risky as you think?

Social cues mal-adaptively increase the unconditional variance of expressions while minimizing the group-conditioned variance.

Basically social media makes you lean into identity cues. We fight with negative identity opponents and align with positive identity proponents. The only issue? You might be talking to someone like me that code switches. “You cannot easily distinguish between unreliable counterparties, deceptive ones, and whether or not you are wrong.” So you could be talking to someone deliberately fucking with you, someone who legitimately just misunderstand or you yourself might be wrong. How do you know? You don’t really. All this “in group” signaling doesn’t make a ton of difference. It’s just the environment of the internet honing some badly social engineered aspects that are not inherent to the human mind or social behavior.

So go read that piece. Tell me what you think. And then go enjoy being social on the internet! Don’t let being wrong or being polarized scare you. We are still figuring out how being part machine mediated. A few bumps are to be expected