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Engineer, startup founder, investor, and writer

benwerd

benwerd

benwerd

ben@benwerd.com

werd.eth

 

Thoughts and actions for the week of September 20, 2021

I’m going to start kicking off my week with a list of thoughts and actions. Join me!

Thoughts

  1. There was a time when the web was really fun: a new medium that people approached with a sense of play. Even TechCrunch, back when it was a blog run by Mike Arrington, seemed like a collection of small experiments. Now it’s like reading a list of private equity updates. That’s what happens when an industry grows up, I guess, but I miss the sense of discovery and wonder. Remember the first social network, or marveling at what Flickr was able to do with a web interface? Or being excited by what one person in their bedroom could put together?
  2. The closest we have to this kind of new platform is smart contract blockchains (Ethereum, Algorand, and so on). Aspects of them are pretty cool, but the fact that money is involved creates a de facto barrier to entry. I could get into the web because it was free and because it had relatively low computing requirements. We didn’t have a lot of money. Which kids are getting into Ethereum when just the gas on a transaction is often tickling $100? $1 would have been too high a barrier for me.
  3. I’m therefore really interested in the decentralization without the monetization. What does a totally free blockchain look like? Is it even possible, given the incentives in the network? Are other, non-monetary incentives possible? Does decentralization really have to bake in capitalism? Why?
  4. What else is it baking in? Software carries with it all kinds of implicit cultural biases based on the predilections of the developers who build it. What would a barter-based decentralized protocol look like? Or one designed around paying forward? Or one designed to penalize wealth hoarding?
  5. I’m not an economist, but lately I’ve been lucky to spend a lot of time hanging out with a former expert in east-west trade with an Oxford PhD in the subject, in addition to advanced law degrees with a specialization in contracts. He’s my dad, I should declare, but our conversations on the topic have been fascinating. I’ve tried and failed to get him to blog, but maybe one day I’ll write up one of our conversations here.

Actions

  1. Last week my car was smashed into and all my devices were stolen. Replacing them was pretty quick, but replacing my backpack (a Peak Design Everyday) and getting the glass repaired on my car has been less easy. This week, both those things need to happen.
  2. I spent some time today laying out some architectural diagrams for my job. I need to get some internal feedback and then put them into practice.
  3. Last week, I joined the Zebras Unite co-op as an individual member. I’ve been following the zebras since literally day one, and I’m excited to help them more deeply. I need to learn how I can be most useful to the community and put myself out there. Helping people who are genuinely out to distribute equity and make the world a more equal place is a life-affirming thing to do.
  4. I get to catch up with some friends (outside) this week, and hopefully see some live music. I’m looking forward to it.
  5. I think I’ve got an ear infection, and not for the first time this year. I actually first noticed it months ago, but it was the day my mother died, and I’ve had other priorities since then. No more putting it off: I’ve made an appointment with an ENT doctor and hopefully we can figure it out.

Have a good week!

 

I love hearing more and more electric vehicles on the streets. I wish they were buses and trams, but still.

 

Looking for a writer’s group

I’m looking for a writer’s group that meets some or all of the following characteristics:

It’s completely private. Everyone agrees that nothing leaves the group.

It’s almost all asynchronous. No Zoom write-ins, etc. Every month there’s a check-in where you can read aloud if you want to, but contributors are from all around the world and therefore lots of different timezones, so the synchronous part isn’t required.

Everyone is working on either one long-form fiction work, or a series of short stories. There’s no non-fiction.

Everyone must submit at least 1000 more words of their work every week for everyone else to read. People can leave comments but don’t need to crit.

If you don’t submit work, you’re out of the group. (Maybe there’s a three strikes rule.)

It works seasonally - so you commit to a season, but if you fall out you can start again for the next season.

I haven’t seen anything like this. Have you?

 

He found forgotten letters from the '70s in his attic. Turns out they were missives from the Unabomber

"When it hit me that my correspondent was the same Ted Kaczynski who’d killed three people he’d never met, I felt a shiver of recollection of the fear that prevailed in the Bay Area in the 1970s, during the heyday of serial killers such as the Zodiac, Zebra, Santa Rosa Hitchhiker and Golden State. I was also, to be honest, thankful I hadn’t been rude to him."

[Link]

 

Constantly hungry for constructive criticism, and particularly hungry for guidance during this moment of my life. What could I be doing better? But asking for this is an imposition and puts people in a really uncomfortable position. Doing my best.

 

A novel is born

I’m obsessed with this kind of thing: an author self-publishing across various media using the internet as a kind of canvas. So obsessed that I really want to try it myself.

[Link]

 

Here's why California has the lowest COVID rate in the nation

““If the small inconvenience of wearing a mask could protect my neighbor, I wear one with a smile,” he said. “Similarly, if the science, my own self-interest and the protection of my neighbors all are promoted by getting a vaccine, I’m happy to join my neighbors in line.”” Thank you, California.

[Link]

 

I’m curious how many investors use the Peter Thiel Roth loophole to invest - and how many are scrambling now it looks like it might be going away?

 

You’ll know if something is really democratizing finance if it works as or more beneficially for people with low balances. What’s the threshold at which the gains outweigh the fees (including gas)?

 

There are Gen Z venture capitalists, and I am as old as dust.