The December 2021 Reading List
A breakdown of my favourite pieces from this past month.
A great overview of the rise of permissionless/headless brands due to new web3 infrastructure and the increasing power of community in the mix.
“Web3 permissionless branding is the ultimate flywheel, in which the communities participate in the flywheel, shape the brand, and then become the ultimate direct "consumers" of the brand.”
A quick note here - this is not relevant to most established brands who will never become headless or permissionless. Instead read it with a view to see what threads/lessons you can learn from the edge cases that could be applicable to big brand efforts.
An excellent long read on the true value of NFTs - as conferring a vast range of rights - which crushes the repetitive argument of 'right click & save', as the point of NFTs isn't & never has been about physical possession.
“An NFT is something like a combination of a title or deed and a key. It doesn’t just represent your right to a digital object, but materially and socially operationalizes control of it across all sorts of undefined and arbitrary potential social contexts. It secures a place for you in a future possible world. And the earlier you see the possibilities, the cheaper it is to buy in.
Most worlds will fail to actually emerge of course. Most startups fail. Most new restaurants fail. Most novels fail.
Most NFTs will turn out to be worthless.
But some small fraction of the time, NFTs will serve as seeds for entire universes of possibility. The risk of the NFT game, like the risk of the VC game, is not that you’ll lose money on the duds, but that you’ll miss out on the non-duds.”
From Barstool Sports to Hello Sunshine, MeatEater, Food52 & Crunchyroll - The Chernin Group bets big on niche community-driven companies and then scales them to head spinning levels of success.
'All of these companies are built around tribes'
…so don't you dare tell me that community can't drive growth.
America is running out of ideas
Great piece on the shift from exploration to incrementalism and the decline of originality.
“The problem is inertia. We need to want these things more than we want to prevent these things.”
An important update into the investigation of the shady practices happening on Roblox that are affecting kids, devs and the wider culture.
It's a great platform, but it’s critical to be aware of the downsides as well as the up.
An in depth analysis of Tiger Global, the new VC on the block who are changing the rules and winning as a result.
This piece stuck out to me because it also felt so relevant for other industries who prefer to dig their heels into the status quo, than to explore alternative possibilities.
“When we accept this framework, it becomes obvious that there are countless ways the game can be played, and the best strategies/tactics for winning the game can change and evolve drastically over time. The biggest losers in this paradigm of countless play styles are those who believe:
That there are more rules to the game than the two immutable rules
That they play the game the “right way” and that competitors playing differently are playing the “wrong way”
That the game is static, and stays the same over time despite changes to the macro environment, behavior of other players, etc.
Once again, proof that fandom is becoming a dominant currency, both commercially & culturally. This time for college athletes after the new NIL legislation. Thousands are now going direct-to-fans to build their personal brands & web3 will just accelerate this shift.
Nation states are a relatively modern concept & there's no reason to think they should last forever. Just as the printing press disrupted societal structures from 'divine rulers' to democracies, so too will the next iteration of the internet & blockchain.
'Today, humans have a mostly monogamous relationship to nations — try and profess allegiance to more than one and things get complicated. In the future, we may be “promiscuous nationalists,” moving between digital states depending on circumstance.'
Community + scarcity + economy…remind you of anything?
“Pokémon currently reigns as the single highest-grossing media IP on earth, with revenue exceeding roughly $105 billion. Today, nearly 25 years after the initial craze, Pokémon cards set auction records.”
“What Pokémon does that few trends can do to sustain relevance is form a community. It isn’t just about the cards and the games. Pokémon engages people with things they can do together. All of the parts of the franchise have a social element. It’s a communal experience.”
“In many ways, Nintendo has turned Pokémon into a closed-circuit commodity economy, wielding the eternal power of forced scarcity to keep the hunger alive.”
An excellent, mind bending interview with the mega brain, Balaji Srinivasan.
"Today, it is not just God that is dead. It is the State that is dying. Because in the early innings of the 21st century, faith in the State is plummeting. Faith in God has crashed too. It is the Network that is the next Leviathan"
“This is the decade of professionalized, decentralized culture creation”
On how Coinbase thinks about the metaverse
Smart, straight forward, grounded.
'The Metaverse is the distant evolution of Web3. In its most complete form, it will be a series of decentralized, interconnected virtual worlds with a fully functioning economy where people can do just about anything they can do in the physical world.'
'Importantly, the Metaverse is not the same thing as gaming (an activity you can do within the Metaverse), or virtual reality (a way of interfacing with the Metaverse). It’s also not the same as Web3 (a distant ancestor of the Metaverse).'
Plus, this is SO useful:
(Please no more ‘Roblox is a metaverse’, Fornite is a metaverse’…just NO).
On amateur environments unleashing new forms of creativity
Short but insightful read.
“Amateurizing has compelling effects on the environment. It reconstructs our referent objects from those that have situated themselves “above” through some means → towards each other.”
A deep dive into the no.1 crypto wallet currently in use - it’s origins, evolution and where it may go next.
'Wallets are a "magical inventory." That's because they contain a lot more than just currency, displaying your financial, social, and artistic assets and relationships.'
Wide ranging, considered, insightful.
'Not every brand can and should scale, and decentralization can offer pockets of consumer culture where loyalty is more lucrative than virality'
'From “my kid could do that” to “right click & save,” new media from the early 20th century onward has been poorly received. Whether or not this NFT bubble bursts, we should take them seriously as status symbols to understand how we'll create exclusivity in the digital world.’
'Cryptocurrencies and NFTs are valuable brands. No matter what you think of the technology, that much is true: millions of people have invested money in them and they have become mainstream phenomena'
A fantastic run down of how Web3 is getting into the dining realm, from Dinner Dao’s to NFTing rare recipes, virtual food trucks and members-only meals.
The space is exploding with creativity.
That’s it for now.