No More Hustleporn: Journey to Web3


Tweet by Venkatesh Rao

https://twitter.com/vgr

Personal account. Writing @ribbonfarm. Hail threadthulhu🐙


Gonna make a thread of my ongoing slow journey (emigration? perhaps…) to Web3, along with my covered wagon full of Web1 and Web2 stuff. Including NFTs, DAOs etc. So if those topics annoy you, you can mute this thread.

The goal is to try and do some pathfinding and sensemaking, and discover a longer-term interesting vision to shoot for. What will ribbonfarm be in 5-10 years? Still a website you visit with a browser? A virtual mansion in a metaverse? A token that unlocks random blobs on IPFS?

My first aha was realizing that even names work differently. First-class citizens on Web3 are not “sites” like in Web1 and Web2, but addresses on blockchains. Took some time to wrap my head around why ‘ribbonfarm.eth’ logically *had* to bean blockchain address, not a ‘site’

This is the truest current view of what it is. Some money, some tokens, and a week-old historical record of transactions that kinda tell a story. This is analogous to going to ribbonfarm dot com and clicking “view source” in your browser.

etherscan.io/address/0x2503…

This is a bit like staring at the “code” of the Matrix right? It’s a wtf experience. Yeah sure sometimes there’s surreal voyeuristic appeal to looking at big accounts raw on blockchain to see millions or even billions sitting there but otherwise it’s like reading accounts for fun  

My true Aha! moment came with this tweet a day ago (which several people helpfully flagged in the replies, “you’re having your aha moment”). The front-end UX that can be created with this backend feels like sorcery to my Web2 brain.

This, from the many helpful replies to tweet quoted above, is an example of the closest thing to a “site” in Web3. You pull in stuff linked by an address, filter and present the contents visually. In some cases the content itself will be on-chain if it’s light data.

But with heavier data, the blockchain will ideally point (immutably) to *content* rather than addresses of computers. IPFS (interplanetary file system) is the Web3 native version but the idea is roughly the same as torrents. But it goes back further.

This is an old idea called content-centric networking (CCN) that my colleagues at Xerox PARC used to work on like 15y+ ago when I was still in paycheck land. An Aha I had in ~2010 was when a CS colleague explained hashes to me: “fingerprints” for data.

I remember it blowing my mind then that things didn’t have to be addressable to be findable, they could be “recognized.” Just like you recognize your mom’s face wherever you see it. She’s not defined by occupancy of a home address.

But I thought CCN was scifi beyond my lifetime.

Final element: “wallets” — Web3 is called the internet of money for a reason. You can’t really navigate it without a wallet. Currently the default setup is the MetaMask extension on Chrome. Using this reminds me of my first view of Mosaic after using Lynx, in ~1994.

For younger people… Mosaic was the first graphical browser, Lynx was the text-based browser we used before that. Back then http was just one protocol among many like gopher, ftp, telnet (now ssh). Mosaic made it clear http was going to rule the rest. Wallets are that for Web3.

Wallets hold private keys required to transact on addresses you control. They do 4 important things:

Let you spend
Prove who you are
Let you sign things
Get irretrievably lost or stolen

Kinda like: cash, drivers license, a pen with unique ink, and an easy-to-lose form factor

That’s basically what Web3 is. 4 layers:

1. Wallets
2. “Sites” you can visit with them
3. Blockchain pointing to everybody and everything forever
4. Content-centric network

Web1/2 were:

1. Accounts and passwords
2. Browsers
3. Address-based network
4. Servers

Okay, so that long preamble was because I assume most of you had no idea what any of this is. You just see weird people with .eth names apparently trying to sell you jpegs of the Brooklyn Bridge. I knew most of this in principle before, but only learned it in practice last week.

Okay so what have I actually been up to? Well the grabby headline, which I tweeted yesterday is: I’ve made 30x as much in 1 week on Web3 as I did in my first *year* on Web2.

This will make 1/2 of you yell “Climate-destroying scam!,” 1/3 of you go “🤑” and 1/6 of you go “Hmm…”

https://twitter.com/vgr/status/1457196416355291140

I’m mainly tweeting at the last 1/6, people going hmm.

If you’re in the 1/3 🤑 crowd… there’s more talented hucksters you can look to

If you’re in the 1/2 “it’s a scam” crowd, let’s check back in with each other in 10 years, deal?

You’ll have to take my word for it that I’m not in it for the money, though of course that’s fun. I got lucky enough with the first wave of crypto a few years ago that if all I saw here was an opportunity to dazzle people with techno-bullshit, I’d be too lazy and uninterested.

I already only take consulting gigs that actually interest me. If this turns out *not* to have anything deeper going on than selling links to jpegs in a convoluted way I’ll get bored and quit the scene. There’s more interesting ways to earn a living. So…what’s interesting here?

Let’s take learnings from my first 3 experiments. I’d been watching the scene idly and doing some mild heckling for a year, but wasn’t actually planning to do any experimenting until next year. But @eyecheng sucked me in early by listing me in a split for *his* first NFT auction.

His piece sold for 8.25 ETH, but if you can tear your attention away from that or a minute… scroll down and click on “split”

What’s a split? An automated cryptographically secured contract on the blockchain to split a flow of money to more than one destination address.

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Ian generously decided my modest role in the project the NFT was worth a cut, and 4.2% is his little joke because he knows I’m a Hitchhikers Guide fan. But interesting thing is… even if we turn into Deadly Enemies I *still* get the cut of future royalties from any resales.

Here’s the link to the “home page” on the auction on Foundation dot app. But our deal really lives entirely on the blockchain. Even if this site goes under and disappears, the contract lives on. 🤯

Click on the links that show you the raw records.

https://foundation.app/@eyecheng/~/103807

Even if the etherscan.io blockchain explorer site vanishes, the thing is STILL there. The only thing that can destroy the contract is the last ethereum node being shut down and getting thrown into the fires of Mount Doom.

Second experiment. Again I got dragged in faster than I expected. I listed a jpeg from my art of gig project on OpenSea, another “site,” just to get a feel for the workflow. I want planning to sell it yet, but… opensea.io/assets/0x495f9…

…apparently on Web3, merely listing a thing can mean it is de facto up for sale and I got a couple of offers within hours. It’s like how people sometimes ping me to try and buy my kool 3-letter Twitter handle, but systematic. So I said okay whatever trigger the auction.

Sold for ~0.36E in a week-long auction. Afaict OpenSea is a bit like eBay and Foundation is a bit like a mix of Etsy and MoMA.

But boundaries are blurred. All these markets kinda interoperate so things nominally minted in one place can show up in other places.

But the wtf moment was: when I got myself a couple of .eth names from the ENS (Ethereum’s equivalent of DNS, more on that in a minute)… they *automatically* showed up on my OpenSea profile page like they were assets for sale, with “make an offer” buttons. I had to hide them!

But I still hadn’t truly grokked what was going on. My third experiment was on the buy side, I “collected” a short story by @sachinnbenny on yet another “site” called mirror and when the site prompted me to “display” it on my profile I was unable to figure out how.

But when I went back to OpenSea… it was *already* there!

This was, as I said, my Aha moment. The content had only the flimsiest relation to the container. Form and content are decoupled *globally* as a matter of Web3 architecture. It’s not a design choice for “sites”

If you recall old Web1 debates about form/structure separation vs coupling, xml/xslt vs html/css (remember ColdFusion? PHP is still around), this is kinda an end run around it all. On Web3 form and content are minimally separated outside the scope of your personal tastes.

Interlude: ENS. It’s $5/y to get a .eth name >5 chars payable in eth (4 chars is $160/y, 3 is $640/y, which is why I didn’t buy vgr). But at $5 level, current gas prices (transaction fees, like credit card fees but variable based on demand) cost way more than registration!

So weirdly, because the tx fees depend on amount of data you write, and it makes little difference whether a number is “1” or “10” in the contract that represents your registration on chain, it makes more sense to register for long periods. Web3 commoditizes transaction costs!

Okay report on final experiment. A couple of days ago I tried to summarize my learnings so far with a little cartoon. A capability maturity model pyramid overlaid on a 2x2. And of course I immediately joked “I should NFT this” and of course I immediately thought “well why not”

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Aside: the diagram has the x-axis separating sustainable futures (above water) from unsustainable ones (below water) and the y-axis separating positive futures (right half) from the negative ones (left half). The annotations are in a weird language Web3 types speak. Primer:

Anyhow, I minted it as my “Hello World” NFT on Mirror. This works a little differently. The exact same thing (yes the thing you can right-click and save right here for free) can be “collected” at 3 different levels with floor prices of 0.01, 0.1, 1 eth.

Hello World — Mirror

Not counting all you freeloading right-clickers on here at the 0 eth level, it’s been collected by 9 people so far (7+1+1), for a total of 1.17 eth.

It took me about an hour to think through and draw this, so technically this is the highest paid work I’ve ever done.

Oh, one last Week 1 experiment. Mirror does something called a "token race" to win a $WRITE token which you can trade for a subdomain of mirror.xyz on which to run a decentralized publication using their suite of tools (a cross between kickstarter and wordpress).

Mirror

I registered for this coming week's race to try and win a token for the @yak_collective ... there's a 2 hour voting window on Wednesday. Anyone can vote, though existing token holders get a bigger weightage. This will help us get going on our DAOish plans.

I'll keep updating this thread as I learn more, and as I or collaborators do things. has a few more cued up. I have a handful of experiments of increasing complexity cued up. Many in collaboration with artist who I've made various graphics with for years

Nice checklist/table of what it takes to get a DAO going by @rafathebuilder

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And also

Oh lol, that linked article by @keikreutler refs my old 8 metaphors of org post. Nice update. ourmachine.net/writing/eight-…

Okay I bought a bit of Solana and put it in my Ghost wallet. Any recommendations for where to go play with it?

explainer on playing with solana (linking mid-thread where the usage stuff begins since the earlier part is investment stuff

Okay this is like auspicious or something. I registered my .eth domains like mere hours before the ENS governance token airdrop deadline (which I did not know about). So I've claimed my tokens (and delegated them to Coinbase).

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It's like me, a hobo, wandering into the lobby of a company and they ask me "do you want to be on the board?" and I say, uhh no, and they say "well here's some shares because you were born before a certain date, and you can assign it to someone as a proxy."

Coinbase is perhaps not the best choice, but the devil you know etc. Also, I don't actually see the tokens in my wallet, though the tx was successful. So I assume they're either on loan to my delegate or will be airdropped later or something? I supposedly have 361.

Update: got them imported. And wtf they're *already* worth like 8k??? How did the market even price this thing so fast. So voting rights on ENS are this valuable...

TIL... the hawala markets move fast

Next NFT from @eyecheng dropping tomorrow.

Here we go, next @eyecheng NFT auction is live (disclosure: as with the previous one, I get 4.2%)

Okay, next experiment, I have now minted and listed my first serious NFT on Foundation. The Ribbonfarm Map of 2016, split with . Once the first bid rolls in, a 24-hour auction will begin.

Ribbonfarm Map, 2016 | Foundation

Signed this "declaration of interdependence for cyberspace" not so much because I agree with all the sentiments expressed, but because it's fun to sign with a wallet and because it's forkable. I look forward to signing many inconsistent forks of this.

A Declaration of the Interdependence of Cyberspace

An interesting coinage I've heard a few times, though by no means dominant, is "pluriverse" (compare with metaverse and Mastodon's fediverse). I like it. Metaverse suggests top-down. Fediverse suggests a federation of traditional org types. Pluriverse suggests chaotic-diversity.

How do groups manage representational tasks? If a group wanted to delegate things like signing declarations or placing bids, which all require something like a m e t a msk wallet, would the reps just share the seed phrase?

I am NOT asking about multisig. We have a gnosis safe for our yak collective treasury for example. Not looking for n/m authorization. More like 1 on behalf of n, while browsing around. And don't think most multisig vaults etc are set up for working with the most UIs anyway.

Every site I've logged in to has allowed me to log in with M e ta mask and a couple of other browser extension wallets. I've never seen anything offering me the option of triggering a multi-sig sign-in to (for eg) list an nft created by a group. This is a delegated task UX need.

I *think* using the spend-limit authorization mechanism, it may be possible to have a multi-sig gnosis safe authorize one of the signatories to make tx individually of up to some amount, but it's not clear how that would work.

Thus tweet hits home today. Thanks to Web3 DeFi markets, the ENS tokes had instant market value and will be taxed as ordinary income. In the dinosaur age that was 2013-17, airdrops were meaningless until one of the centralized exchanges listed them and there was a price.

I mistakenly thought I could treat the airdrop as zero-cost-basis and report any appreciation as capital gains when sold. This was true when airdrops were illiquid for months. Now, in the US, you owe taxes on market price at the time of claim, even if it later goes to zero.

Thanks to @liminal_warmth for correcting me here. I was extrapolating incorrectly from whatever the hell pre-DeFi crypto was. Web2.5?

Milestone: did my first DeFi token swap, trading a quarter of my ENS for ETH to hedge against potential tax losses in case it goes to zero. Planning to hang in to the rest. Yet another case of Web3 sucking me in to do something earlier and more consequentially than I planned to.

This might be a characteristic of the medium. It’s really hard to do small experiments. I mean you can’t buy a tiny fraction of a domain name. It’s 0/1. And that has… consequences.

I *want* to stay on the tech+culture side of Web3 and ignore the speculative frenzy, but it’s tough. You may not be interested in DeFi, but DeFi is interested in you. The 800lb DeFi gorilla black hole is the King Kong of bored apes.

Yes, this is almost certainly true. Carlota Perez installation phase going on. Overbuilding of capacity, crash, then everything comes true in deployment phase, 10 years later than the frenzy people thought.

For all following along, people my age have lived through 3-4 of these cycles. If this is your first time PLEASE be careful.

Amara’s Law: We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run.

Roy Amara - Wikipedia

If you need help, talk to someone 40+ in tech. I haven’t seen a scene like this since 2000, when I joined a Web1 startup briefly, mere months before the dot com crash. Hedging is not hard. What’s hard is taking the downside scenario seriously enough at the peak.

Anyhoo. I now have some 101 experience of every major user-side piece of the Web3 puzzle except DAOs 👀. Gotta pace myself. Been neglecting non-Web3 stuff for 10 days. I think I’ll budget 15% of bandwidth to this through 2022. Regardless of boom or bust.

I suspect the really interesting building will begin after next crash. Without the dot com bust we wouldn’t have clouds or YouTube. Both based on overbuilt capacity. Don’t think in terms of asset prices but measures like number of skilled programmers or piles of firesale GPUs.

Ok, calling it a night. The Foundation auction got triggered btw, and there’s a couple of bids in. 14h before the Ribbonfarm Map gets sold for the first time. And tomorrow we dive into DAOland via a token race 😵‍💫

https://twitter.com/vgr/status/1458137479291097095

Nightcap: big diff between 2017 boom and Web3 is: that was 100% speculative frenzy airgapped from trad economy. There was no user side to it. Only trading and coding sides. This time there’s a technological space to explore as a *user*, and a tenuous but real link to trad economy

Polite but hostile comments, and indicative poll results. If you’re diving in, be aware that half your friends will react this way.

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One thing I’ve learned from past cycles is that it’s a mistake to dismiss the criticism outright OR take it at face value. There’s always an element of truth to it, but it’s never the whole truth. So participating in the early history of a technology involves a reputational tax.

One mistake techies made ~2009-13 when political potential of social media was becoming clear (Iran election, Arab spring), was focus polyannishly on the positive and dismiss criticism as “haters.” It can be true that both the scammy and positive potential are real.

Same things happened with Web1 (“eyeballs business models are a scam!”) and PCs (“software piracy!”). New technologies always refactor moralities based on old technologies. I personally find that if there’s technical novelty, eventually the net unambiguous value also follows.

One reason it’s generally young people who dive in, besides having less intellectual baggage and more intact brain cells, is that they usually have no reputation to lose, only a shot at making one. If it’s a public media technology, the reputational risk is even higher.

Here for eg… yes I’m making a bit of money, but notice I’m putting 14 years of accumulated Web2 reputation at risk, with poll suggesting I could lose ~23% of it right now AND an indeterminate fraction of the undecideds, in 3 of 4 scenarios here. Not trivial.

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Aside, far more interesting than the hostility from genpop is the hostility from Bitcoin maxis (Bitcoin maximalists — people who believe Bitcoin is the One True Coin), since Web3 is based entirely on post-Bitcoin tech. For the record I think they’re wrong.

Okay, the WRITE token race is live. Please vote if you'd like to see the @yak_collective get on mirror (you need the metamask extension to vote, and anybody can cast 10 votes).

$WRITE RACE — Mirror

You have ~2 more hours to vote in the WRITE race. And the Foundation auction ends in 50 minutes...unless someone bids in last 15 minutes in which case it gets extended another 15 minutes (who came up with this sniper-action design pattern? is it common?)

Ribbonfarm Map, 2016 | Foundation

Foundation auction closed at 0.69E. Fees were a bit ruinous, but still a tidy profit. Best part of this was being able to divert a nice slice to @GraceWitherell ... she's an amazing artist. Check out her stuff linktr.ee/gracewitherell

Also sent a slice of the pie to EFF

Grace Witherell | Linktree

I *think* we made it? Says we came in at #2 in the current round of voting and the rules say top 10 get in. But don't yet see a way to verify. I'll wait to confirm, but looks like yakcollective will be on mirror shortly, and that's like halfway to being a DAO right?

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Feels like this is the end of Phase 1, Random Acts of Web3ing

Phase 2 calls for some Cunning Acts of Strategery I think  

Thanks to all who voted for us in the WRITE race. If you're wondering why so many voters have 100s or 1000+ votes, it's because existing Mirror DAO members get 1000 votes when they get in and it increases slowly as they participate more. Outsiders get 10. It's an ingroupocracy!

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Everything about Web3 seems to be driven by an underground warren-like Signal/Telegram/Discord-based network. In a 2019 post, I had an area marked "Cryptoweb" under the Cozyweb region... well, it's kinda nearing completion and this is it.

The Extended Internet Universe

So far I think the most interesting general insight Ive developed some confidence in is that Web3 is all about flows, not stocks. In that sense it’s different not only from Web0 and Web1, but industrial organizations too (think “stock” markets).

The split (branch between flows) is to Web3 what links (bridge between stocks) is to Web1 and Web2.

Calling it now.

The split is the hyperlink of Web3.

If I’m right this is a radical subversion of even the OG vision of the internet, Vannevar Bush’s Memex, which is stock-centric. His classic 1945 essay, As We May Think, which shaped 70 years of tech development, (including my own modest bits at Xerox) does *not* fit Web3.

Link for those unfamiliar with it. This thing was my North Star for a few years.

As We May Think

In Web3 it feels like the fundamental behavior is not following a trail of links from stock to stock, but following a stock as it flows from address to address. Even our basic metaphor of a “bitcoin” is utterly wrong because it anchors on a stock view.

The coin metaphor is going to prove to be severe baggage for Web3, just as the document metaphor was baggage for Web1 and Web2. The late Web2 metaphor of the stream (effectively infinite dynamic frankendocument) is a clumsy Web2 version of a Web3 flow.

This is why the split is the hyperlink of Web3. It forks a flow structurally. Voting and staking mechanisms look like flows > stocks. Multisig wallets are flow control valves. “Balances” (not coins) are levels of fungible stocks in flow buffers. Burning tokens is flow.

Minting is an unfortunate coin-metaphor term (“coinage” 😖). It’s really a kind of source spigot. I wish they’d called mining drilling. Drilling for hashes.

Ethereum developed better language tbh. Ether, gas… fluid metaphors all over the place.

Oh yeah, hash rates! Can’t get more flow than that!

And mining “pool” … you can’t really pool solids. Okay will hit pause on this train of thought. Trying hard to stay on the hands-on side. It would be just too easy for me to get carried away by this flow 🤣

My natural mode is tinker with real things for 5 minutes, speculate wildly in the abstract for 15. Must resist.

But here’s an old thing I wrote on hyperlinks when I was high on Memex visions in 2009.

Maybe I can write a sequel, the Rhetoric of the Split.

The Rhetoric of the Hyperlink

Someone make a Sankey diagram based blockchain explorer. At the very least it will improve Sankey literacy for climate awareness. You can split me a royalty for the idea. See how natural the language is? “Link to me” —> “split to me.”

Sankey diagram - Wikipedia

Prediction: MetaMask will add a messaging function. You already have an address book. You’re probably doing splits with them. Why go to Signal or wherever? Mutisigs will develop attached group discussion fora. Messaging companies may acquire wallet companies. Or vice versa.

Your main transactional (but not custodial) wallet will be your identity/social, replacing email and phone number.

Venmo has already created a weird social network around Web2 payments. But Web3 is the natural home for the idea. On Venmo, it’s vaguely voyeuristic, like Glassdoor reviews. But on Web3 such things may have a healthier valence.

This is probably going to be the big ideological divide.

I think *decentralized* artificial digital scarcity is a great invention. Incentivizes production without empowering aggregators too much. I think @stratechery aggregation theory will be weakened or reversed by Web3.

A general pattern of question I’m getting as in every tech futures conversation I’ve ever had, is “How is Web3 thing X different from obvious analogical old thing Y?”

Anchoring on the most obvious analogy tends to minimize distinctions and magnify similarities.

The snark form of this is perversely self blinding, as in “X, you invented X”

“Rideshare with published routes”… “public transit you invented public transit” (treating app based failing as a rounding error).

Thing is *you choose your anchors, you choose your blindness*

This is why I don’t engage “how is it different from X” whether motivated by sincere curiosity or bad-faith trolling.

You chose your anchor. I don’t have to. I may offer alternate anchors, but I don’t have to correct the invisibilities of your frame. That’s a futile battle.

In general, I try to understand a thing on its own terms. You can never avoid metaphors (unpopular opinion: there is no System 2; there is no ‘first principles thinking’, there’s only conceptual metaphors too subtle to notice), but you can pick one that highlight the differences.

Obvious metaphors and analogies aren’t intrinsically bad. They do save you cognitive labor. But they make good servants and bad masters. If a hammer in your hand makes you see everything as a nail, the hammer is using you, you’re not using the hammer.

I’m not trying to preach. Just explaining why I don’t engage with some comments. I am not necessarily assuming bad faith or disputing or ignoring your point. You’re just using anchors I don’t care to conform to.

Choose your anchors. Don’t let them choose you.

I guess part of me is just kinda exhausted by a sense of “here we go again; new tech revolution same debates” deja vu. It would be nice to have weird new arguments and a strange new type of techlash at least.

A question I’m mulling — anyone have a sense of the demographics of the ENS token drops, or how to probe that? Unlike the early crypto era, where those who got in were either wealth-privileged or tech-privileged, or both, this one I suspect has been more of a true trickle-down.

Poll: Sampling demographics of ENS token drop. Interpret rich/middle class/poor by your local geography. This is the future Bitcoin maxis want 😆

I've been looking at Web3 culture through the lens of Geertz' classic Deep Play lens. The DeFi degens (profiteering hucksters) are clearly shallow play, and those building DAOs etc are clearly deep play, but happy frothy gm/wagmi crowd is kinda in between jstor.org/stable/20024056

For those unfamiliar with Geertz, it's a classic anthropology study that pioneered the "thick description" research approach. It looked at Balinese cockfighting through the lens of Bentham's (19th century utilitarianism pioneer) "deep play" idea.

Roughly speaking, shallow players are gambling for legible profits, deep players are playing to signal, shift, and reshape political alliances and commitments to ideologies, kinship relations etc. But gm/wagmi culture frankly doesn't strike me as deep enough.

But one cultural bit that DOES strike me as deep play signaling is the Web3 crowd eschewing .com domains for their web properties. Besides the native .eth tld handled by ENS, the DNS tlds that are popular are .xyz, .io, .app etc. Anything *but* .com.

This presents an interesting tension. The @yak_collective main website is a .org, and we have .com held in reserve, and just won a $WRITE token to create a mirror.xyz subdomain. I suspect we're going to be hybrid and have use both .com and .somethingelse primaries.

Mirror

TIL... the common auction pattern on Web3 where the deadline gets extended repeatedly by late bids (kinda like overtime) is called a Coldi auction.

In 2000-08, .coms were the *only* serious option, or .org if you were really a nonprofit. A .net meant you weren't savvy enough to play. In Web2, the .com hegemony began to unravel ~2010 as a few others like .io, .me, .ai, .ly began to gain alt subcultural cachet

But the Web2 subcultural fragmentation tlds were still kinda in harmony with .com. They typically signaled a vertical orientation, but still with "dot com" basic neoliberal capitalism values/ethos. I think Web3 is signaling a fuck-you to that at an axiomatic tld level.

Update, it's only a strict Coldie auction if you extend by 24h each late bid, because the intent is apparently global time-zone fairness. I guess the 15-minute extension model is a Coldie-like model but with other intentions (sniping defense etc)

I have acquired an official Gen Z mentor. gmi.

Own = still stock thinking, the flow equivalent might be “execute” (contracts, instructions, orders) so we get rwx on global computer 🤔

All Unix metaphors then apply. chmod, chown, pipes, redirects

I suspect control rather than ownership is the core concept. I’m genuinely surprised by the number of people whose basic posture is “give me one real use case and convince me.” I can understand hostile rejection or just diving in to either explore or grift.

But standing around like it’s somebody’s job to win you over? That is odd.

Kinda ironic that Web3 thing presents as 100% transactional and money driven, and you have to buy in with cash, but it’s nobody’s job to actually sell it to you. Yes, there are self-appointed evangelists and people shilling coins, but this isn’t *actually* a product.

It’s a cousin of Paul Ford’s “why wasn’t I consulted?” (wwic) phenomenon.

“Why wasn’t I marketed to?” (wwmt)

Why didn’t somebody carefully analyze your tastes and values and figure out a positioning and value proposition to appeal to you?

Why indeed.

ftrain.com/wwic

I suspect this is how people miss booms, waiting to be invited. Same thing happened with PCs, Web1, Web2.

This is a crash-only party. Nobody is invited. Everybody is a party crasher. Starting with Satoshi crashing central banker party. Crash in or sit it out. wwmt is silly.

As with Web1 and Web2, most creators get nothing, the rest are power-law distributed.

Science proves it: Most NFTs are worthless

I think Web3 is waiting for its cgi moment. Web1 went from memoryless to stateful over ~5 years with cookies+cgi. Web3 is coming from the other extreme, from only immutable memory towards stateful.

It’s not just gas fees. The whole persistence model is like eeprom. Write operations are like flashing in embedded programming. Need a throwaway state on top that gives up some trustless verifiability for convenience for the less critical stuff.

Like if you wanted to use NFTs as tokens in a decentralized wallet-to-wallet game, where do hold game state? In a Web2 style db layer? That seems wrong. But it also seems silly to store game state on chain.

Okay fine not necessarily state, but *some* controlled transient persistence model that’s decoupled from browser session but is less expensive/permanent than on-chain, while still being Web3 native paradigm-wise.

This seems like the beginnings of an answer, though you need opensea to be a TTP temporarily. It’s not quite p2p decentralized state.

This keeper model seems more in harmony with Web3 architectural vibes

Well, I guess I had to dabble in at least 1 memecoin. Sent 0.042E (about $200 rn) to the @ConstitutionDAO project that's trying to buy a copy of the US constitution at auction. tx succeeded and I claimed my tokens, but I don't see tx or message on the juicebox feed yet 🧐

If it doesn't make it, then instead of getting the stake back, I'd like to see it being used to do something else, like maybe draft a new constitution. There is some really good energy here. And I'm not the only one to gesture at 42 in the contributions, I see a few 42s in there.

Oh shit, this is a financial flash mob

If this works, it will basically kill kickstarter/gofundme etc.

Ah here we go! Couldn't come up with a better message on short notice. Some of the messages on there are fun.

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Worthwhile note of caution. In this case, I happen to know a couple of the people driving this, and it's both a fun experiment and driven by the right people for the right reasons, but like all tech, it's definitely a double edged sword.

https://twitter.com/CO_EQ/status/1459987314717773825

I’m hitting pause on more serious experiments for now. Beginning to understand why gas problem is a rate limiter. It’s not just that it cuts into any profits but that it limits who else can participate in anything you do. Might save them for next crash-slump or Solana/polychain.

I’m sure bitcoin is technically capable of going most places newer chains are, but my skepticism of it is now primarily cultural. Feels like core community has too much gravitas to do anything besides compete with gold and hold the political line re self-custody etc.

So an interesting thing that's happening due to Web3 (though the pattern existed before) is that Twitter is turning into the de facto identity verification service. So you're going to see people tweeting addresses etc. to link twitter accounts, like this.

The above is me verifying my solana wallet address so people can send me sol using my twitter handle. This sort of use reminds me of the trajectory of email from pure comms to identity verification loops (verify links in email) and in general, media aging from human to bot use

Over the years, my email address has gone from primarily human "letter writing" to primarily bot-procedural-transactional + newsletters, as actual human comms have increasingly moved to messaging apps. I really only use email in "human" ways for consulting notes now.

And interestingly it goes back to paper even. When I was a kid, most paper mail we received was... actual letters and postcards. Transactional letters were rare. Now, the only thing I receive besides junk mail is official communications, automatically mailed.

True of outgoing too. The only paper I ever mail is stuff that requires official signature and they won't take scans or faxes, like government stuff. Increasingly though, digital signing is killing that... but with weird gaps.

Interesting example: I have to file taxes in India because I have a bank account there, and the filing is electronic, but they have a verification form called ITR-V. Now normally this too can be done electronically via bank account link, but for it doesn't work for non-residents.

So one of the only paper mailings I do is every damn year I have to send the ITR-V form signed to the Indian IT department :D (only worth it because as a non-resident, I can actually claim back all the auto-deducted tax on interest on the bank account...)

But it's interesting that one of the things that *doesn't* seem to change from paper to web1 to web2 to web3 is a need for identity verification loops, whether official KYC needs, or soft verification of twitter etc

A bit off topic, but I thought this note I just posted on the @yak_collective discord might be of more general interest to Web3 crowd re: post-Discord social coordination tooling. Poses a "mangrove" UX problem to create something that's somewhere between a stream and garden UX.

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Funny and potentially worrying thing, the superficially inclusive wagmi sensibility does not extend as far as claimed. Web3 has a very definite outgroup: all of tradfi, including hybrid things like coinbase that are centralized and have one foot in crypto world, one in fiat.

I got a bit of shit for delegating my ENS votes to Coinbase. It seems to be viewed by hardcore Web3ers as something between disappointing gaucherie to tribal betrayal. If you think that might want to reflect on the fragility of ‘wagmi’.

The presence of Coinbase (and all of Gen 1 crypto scene founded 2009-14) is healthy, should be welcome, and a real first test of wagmi claims. If you can’t even tolerate an older sibling, you’re ngmi with the other 7.4999 billion people on the planet and wagmi would be hypocrisy.

Not to mention kinda clueless since so much of Web3 investment is from VC firms that also drove the first generation of innovation.

This is partly why I’m not using the lingo except occasionally ironically. And limping avoiding even the ironic use. This thing has a shot at being genuinely open and inclusive and it would be a pity if it didn’t live up to that.

Of course doesn’t mean the ethos shouldn’t be defended against hostile takeovers/co-option by old empires striking back, etc. But there’s ways to do that that don’t devolve into tribalism or insularity.

Okay, new thing to explore that I hadn't seen before: Decentraland. dencentraland.org
ht @yimbyarts

Okay this thing is too heavy for my poor old 2015 dual core MBP, and fan came on loudly, so I'm gonna wait for my powerful new 16" MBP with M1Pro to arrive before doing any metaversy shit. Checked it out and created avatar though.

Parking a thought here, cf my earlier point about deep play and shallow play. An orthogonal axis is high-roller vs. low-roller. Normally, high-rollers are also deep players, but I suspect there's an inversion of sorts going on here. Big spending != deep playing.

Ideas for nonfungible things are nonfungible. Ripoffs with only cosmetic differentiation are low value.

Does transaction volume on ethereum generally go down with price? Ie does gas price go down with price in ether terms (not dollar terms)?

I've been mulling perhaps the most common first question people ask about NFTs. What rights do you get? The copyright for any artwork associated with the NFT, whether it is a mutable URL or an immutable IPFS object, remain with the original maker. So the NFT grants nothing.

The scam side potential of this is obvious. Now you *could* assign rights along with the minting, in which case what you're really doing is putting a regular copyright assignment contract on the blockchain, but this seems somehow underwhelming. Just... use a paper contract?

I also don't like analogies like collectibles, autographs, maing-a-star etc. I think that's selling the concept short. I think what an NFT is, is a "right to future rights."

Viewed as a verifiable n/m pointer to an object, you now have a way to reference and work with everything derived from the thing being pointed to. Say I create a set of characters and sell as NFTs. Later, I create a game where those characters are live action playables...

In regular work-for-hire copyright, if derivative works are of value, the maker will, for the agreed compensation, blanket assign *all* rights to the buyer/commissioner, including reproduction, new media, derivatives, blah blah blah. It's a nuclear option.

But NFTs create a mechanism for fine-grained rights *optionality.* If I make a game with my characters for example, then perhaps the holder of the NFT is suddenly granted airdropped the right to pick game characteristics of the character. You don't have to know ahead of time.

This is kinda like how land rights evolved. Until there were airplanes, airspace rights above land were meaningless. Buying land doesn't give you limitless rights to pump groundwater, but might grant you *some* rights. Mineral deposit rights may or may not go with the land

The ability to define and sell pointers to future rights I think is a powerful programming mechanism for rights management. Right now, this is based on trust of the creator, but I think norms will emerge.

I think answers like "it's an autograph" or my own first metaphor "it's like the scam companies that allow you to name a star but it isn't recognized by astronomers" are... kinda wrong. They don't really exploit the fact that the NFT is a uniquely identifiable pointer to a thing

Another way to think of it comes from TradFi... the popular (and also perceived-scammy) mechanism of SPACs. You're buying a pointer to a future undefined company when you buy into a SPAC.

This btw, makes 1/1 NFTs less interesting to me than 1/n. Because limited editions allow you to create undefined *communities* of pointer holders. For eg. the next NFT experiment I'm thinking through relates to this playable maze created by @danielfschmidt and me.

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Now this thing is more than just a nice graphic. It's also the base map for a 3d maze we tried to create with (project is on backburner). It provides some of the scaffolding for my next book. I've written a whole series of articles exploring the symbolic logic of it.

There's many places to take this. For eg. if we mint a 500, we could later mark 500 locations on a metaverse-navigable version, and the buyers get naming rights (like "John Doe junction"). If there's a video game, maybe you get an in-world persona in the story etc. etc.

But all these are speculative *potential* projects. They may or may not happen, so the NFT has to be priced like any option, based in part of likelihood of various interesting things of value happening.

If the game or navigable virtual world already existed, I would just sell that directly, and charge an undiscounted-for-risk access price. So if it cost 0.01E to collect this map now, perhaps access to the game would be worth much more...if it happens.

Setting aside goodwill/support/patronage aspects, there's probably a way to price an NFT as a sort of hyperlocal option, based on what you know of the creator. For this map for eg. it would be worth much more if Dan and I had a history and track record of making 3d video games.

But there’s other valuation signals. For example the Loot project is just lists of gameworld objects. Even knowing nothing about future games that may/may not be created, you know rare items across lists will be worth more. And this is exactly how market priced Loot.

In the case of the maze, you might guess that prominent locations on the map might be worth more. Even if unassigned initially, chances are we’d do something like allocate more valuable real estate to people who paid for higher levels of tokens or bought in earlier.

Note… I am NOT promising to do any of this with the map. I might do nothing besides write some more blog posts about it. Video game projects might start and fail, or fail to start. But the information revealed along with the NFT is a pricing signal fir *whatever* happens.

So when you buy a “serious” NFT… one that’s more than a pet-rock collectible and shows signs of future generative evolution, you buy a stake in the *realized* future.

Of course this doesn’t preclude wysiwyg art valuation, but the generative direction is more interesting.

So NFTs are fundamentally social. One-offs are less generative than collections (or more generally, meaningfully decomposable things). The non-fungibility creates a locus of value, the collection creates a context of value, and the undefined future is the risk/reward space.

I haven't looked too much into big hits like bored apes and cryptopunks, but seems they too get priced by the rarity of attributes (like "punks with glasses"), but I think that approach has limited generative potential. It's differentiation but no obvious collection "chemistry"

The big downside of this is, oddly that it requires too much trust. Ironic for a technology of trustlessness. Maybe there's a no-free-lunch trust theorem here. You have to trust that a) the creator will do something interesting and valuable b) act in good faith in sharing it

You have no guarantee of either. So this is scam potential. I expect 90% of things done under NFT to be de facto scammy, in that they will hint at future value they have no intention of trying to deliver. Like vaporware startup pitch decks etc. but worse.  

So oddly enough, the test of whether there will be value is the old-fashioned human trust way... if the person seems like they'll want to remain in your milieu indefinitely (maybe they are part of your subculture) your best guarantees come from that. They won't want to lose face.

I'm kinda curious about creating an NFT valuation formula. The individual's past track record and home milieu stability can predict a future via something like iterated prisoner's dilemma ("this artist's NFT experiment will follow him through his career in the NY art scene")

While characteristics of the work itself (statistical signatures, measures of composability and chemistry) can provide some sort of valuation of the generative potential.

And of course, the strongest signal is just the buy-in levels of funding themselves. If a set of graphic assets raises $50m worth of ether, there's a good chance the artist will want to double down and do something with that windfall, like make a game or movie or whatever.

An NFT is (or can be positioned as) something like an unsecured restricted income share agreement (or general value share) anchored on an asset+person. Unlike a generic ISA, it points only to the value induced by “seed” objects

In fact you could just “NFT yourself” as a simple ISA-like thing. Name a coin after yourself. Done. Null nft with all alpha linked to the minter.

I’m now rethinking ERC-20s based on NFTs. Are there good/reliable no-code ways to generate them? I found this for example.

ERC20 Token Generator | Create ERC20 Token for FREE

Been on the lookout for Web3 climate action models. This is the only one I’ve seen so far. dapp.klimadao.finance/#/bonds

Sidebar elsewhere on the practical matter of planning for the inevitable crash. I’m not a big believer in predictions, but it’s interesting to lay out the worst case scenario that would still keep you interested. Will you keep tinkering if ether is at $400 for 2y? $200 for 5y?

https://twitter.com/vgr/status/1460862129922187264

Not ether specifically, but as indicator of crypto overall. If analogies to 2000 are justified, then a 90%+ crash for 5+ y might be what you plan around as worst case. Can you keep tinkering with NFTs, DAOs etc through such a winter? I frankly don’t know my lower limit.

I’m not talking about the relatively internal boom-bust cycles within crypto that we’re all used to thats been primarily speculative-financial. This time, there’s a non-trivial scenario where it’s a long *tech* slump/winter like 2000. The grown-up general economy version.

The Web3/ETH scene now seems less like a weird sideshow and more like Amazon in 2000. Web3 today is like “e-commerce” in 2000. Took Amazon ~9y to regain early 2000 peak. 9y in which they proved all skeptics wrong and pioneered cloud, but it was still hard to believe in them.

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Yes, everything good tends to get built in long winters, but large numbers of talented people do tap out at various points along the way simply because they do not have the resources to stay interested. So macro good/micro ??.

After a burst of enthusiasm in 1997-2000, between 2001 and 2007, I basically did not write online, did not participate in internet culture really, and did not buy tech stocks. Telling though that I did shop more and more at Amazon but still didn’t believe enough to buy stock.

Partly, life got in the way. I was on a student visa gathering old economy credentials, unsure if I’d stay in the US or ever get back to internet stuff. Placing bets elsewhere. But if I’m being honest, it was also loss of confidence. Lost interest/faith in the internet for ~7y.

I think some combination of 4 things sustained those who stayed in game 2000-07:

1. Enough $ to sustain belief (delusional or not, think Google vs Yahoo)

2. Belief in non-social-proof trend (eg: YouTube = bet on cheaper bandwidth)

3. Specificity of goal (mobile web, cloud)…

4. Most important… sunk costs, both financial (imagine holding what would now be millions in Amazon stock at the bottom in 2000 after believing) or psychological (entire identity invested in code you’ve written over a decade).

None of the 4 applied to me. I had no money, I had no specific trend I believed in, no specific goal that required the internet (I was working on internet-agnostic aerospace tech). I had a few options from the startup I’d worked at 2000-01 but forgot to exercise these in time 🤣

Can’t recall the details, but I probably lost a few 10s of k due to that carelessness. But it tells you how little I cared about what little stake I had. I was still mildly and peripherally interested in the internet, but it wasn’t my “thing” through that period.

This time 1 and 4 are somewhat true for me. I’m actively hunting for a thesis on 2 and it looks promising. But I suspect what will keep me hooked through a potentially long winter is hooking into a good goal. I think it’s robotics for me. Web3+robots = I care enough to stay in.

Okay, the weather is chilly, breakfast is cooking, and gas prices are down a bit, so back to the hands on stuff. New learning milestone, I have "burned" a $WRITE token from @viamirror to create the @yak_collective Web3 publication yakcollective.mirror.xyz

Bit of fun ritual

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Yak Collective

One of the interesting things about crypto is this possibility of digital destruction that works without taking a physical hammer to a hard drive or something. Not entirely sure how it works. I think you send tokens to a blackhole address or something?

Though in physics terms information cannot be destroyed, in practice it can be, you just have to deliberately lose private keys. I recall when Zcash started, they made quite a ritual out of burning their zero-knowledge proof initial conditions.

The Crazy Security Behind the Birth of Zcash, the Inside Story

Edit: I think somewhere up the chain of events, you do need some sort of physical destruction, but once you have an address set up with physically lost private keys, it can serve as an information destruction black hole. Or more precisely, information *control loss* black hole

Alright, next NFT experiment is live. @danielfschmidt and I are doing a 50-50 split collaboration for this Clockless Clock maze NFT on Mirror.

The Clockless Clock Maze — Mirror

"NFT" is a slightly misleading term for Mirror's model. Though the checkbox to mint is labeled "NFT" what it actually does is create 3 "editions" that can be collected 5, 50, or 500 times (at 1E, 0.1E, or 0.01E mins). Maybe these should be called LFTs? Limited fungibility tokens.

Per my speculations upthread, this one is an attempt to do a "serious" NFT that's more than a pet rock type thing. This maze can obviously be the root of many other projects, which we may or may not pursue. How this LFT does will be a strong factor.

For those interested in the unit economics, in USD right now, minting this cost about $121, which is a sort of variable cost, and setting up and unlocking the split contract for Dan and me, which is kinda like a fixed cost for our future collaborations, cost about $116+$53

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An interesting thing about wallet account histories mostly show $0 actions, since most transactions are zero value contract actions, and only cost gas. You have to click through to the receipts like in the tweet above to see what it actually cost.

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It's like getting shopping receipts for $0 but nonzero taxes. Nice motif for abundance economics with nonzero Coasean transaction costs.

Made a thread of just my NFTs on the ribbonfarm twitter account. This time, without a polite "mute this if you don't like Web3/nfts" stuff, so that's an experiment in itself. That account has 18,631 followers right now, how many will rage-unfollow? 🧐

While I'm not exactly a people-pleaser type, I do like peace and harmony, so I tend to avoid conflict in public. But Web3 is a seriously divisive topic, and there's no way to be active in it without pissing off people, no matter how gently you tread.

Just got a lovely hand-drawn thank you card from @GraceWitherell for dragging her into this Game of NFTs. Nice to be able to onboard an artist to Web3.

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Something that seems trivial at an individual level but could have big implications at protocol level. Many contracts need fee-based actions to get money out. For eg, one of my Mirror edition contracts has 0.2E on it, and the withdrawal cost is 0.011664E, or 5.8%... not cheap

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It doesn't scale with amount, so if the amount were 2E as in one of my other contracts, it would be just 0.58%, which is more reasonable. But point is, a lot of money is probably sitting in contracts waiting for either low-gas period or more accumulation to be worth withdrawing.

These aren't frozen assets exactly, but more like costly-to-unlock kinda-stranded assets. So based on gas prices, the protocol itself be more or less full of funds. A bit like islands you can walk to at low tide, but not at high tide.

Funds quasi-stranded on the blockchain are like funds in a bank account in another country (which is also an annoying thing I navigate re an account in India) from which repatriation is difficult/costly. In principle, you have access, in practice, you should time it to be cheap.

til about 'optimistic rollups'... kinda clever, though I guess there's some risk of shenanigans if you take the contract execution off chain

On @ConstitutionDAO post-game, I feel the same as David here. This is a good team, and if there were an option to let my contribution ride to the next quest rather than pull it, I’d take it. Solid coordination-serendipity tailwinds should not be wasted. It’s a rare resource.

Though there are many structural similarities, there is some sort of vibe difference between r/wsb and Web3 that makes me meh to negative on the former and favorably disposed towards the latter. Not just good vibes but upside creative potential of a sort missing from r/wsb.

It feels like r/wsb is/was defined by the very Wall Street ethos of zero-sum gamesmanship and Wolf-on-Wolf Hobbesian competition it resists. Just decentralized. Web3 certainly has a grifty side to the ethos, but also a genuine e creative streak. Like a NY vs LA thing almost.

Interesting factoid: 860k on gas for a 41m flash fund amounts to about 2%, comparable to both credit card processing fees and VC/hedge fund management fees in a typical 2-20 arrangement. And could have been *much* lower if for eg they’d imposed a minimum contribution.

I spent about $40 to contribute about $200, a 20% fee I didn’t mind paying at all. But it would have still been $40 if I’d contributed $2000 which would have made it 2%.

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People are upset in various confused ways about these fees. But try and remember that the cheapest comparable fiat mechanism, like a GoFundMe, would have actually taken vastly more than 2% off the top!

But if I were to pull a stunt like this I’d probably try to encourage a high minimum. It’s a trade off: total raised vs yield. 98% for 41m is pretty good.

Tattooverse is Metaverse v 0.1

Repeating the prompt at the top of the thread: if this whole Web3 topic offends you or triggers your scam-dar, please mute this thread, or mute/unfollow. From some of the questions/replies it looks like some people didn’t see that. Should repeat it periodically.

If you have questions like:

“How is this not just X but worse?”

“What problem does it solve?”

“What value does it create?”

“How can you justify the emissions?”

“Isn’t this just privileged play?”

I’m the wrong person to ask. I’ve done my tours of duty on such debates.