Five Things: December 23, 2021

Sign up to get this as a fancy email newsletter every other Thursday: As in Guillotine


Why it’s too early to get excited about Web3 | Tim O’Reilly

“Repeat after me: neither venture capital investment nor easy access to risky, highly inflated assets predicts lasting success and impact for a particular company or technology. Remember the dot-com boom and the subsequent bust? Legendary investor Charlie Munger of Berkshire Hathaway recently noted that we’re in an ‘even crazier era than the dot-com era.'”

If you’re like me, you’re old enough to remember the original dot-com-boom and are probably sick of people debating the significance of NFTs but also unable to avoid it because EVERYONE! HAS! AN! OPINION! WHICH! MUST! BE! SHARED!

Here’s my take: if you can’t escape the Web3 / crypto / NFT discourse, at least seek out level-headed thinkers with relevant experience who can put it all in some useful context. O’Reilly is one of those people, and he does a really good job here of breaking it all down and making it clear that most of us can comfortably ignore it.

tldr: No FOMO.


The Gamers Who Regularly Stream to No One | Gabriel Geiger

“Some people like to paint, some people like to take a walk in the forest, I like to stream. You know how after you go swimming your body is tired but you feel refreshed? That’s how I feel.”

Something that gets lost in the hype around every new social media platform and the “creator economy” in general, is the reality that the vast majority of people aren’t doing it as part of a marketing strategy. It was the same with blogging back in the day, and it’s always been the same with publishing—traditional or DIY.

It’s one of Cluetrain’s most important theses and remains true today: “The Internet is enabling conversations among human beings that were simply not possible in the era of mass media.”

Not everyone is out there trying to build and monetize an audience, most are simply looking to communicate and engage with a particular group of people they have something in common with, or they just like sharing what they’re passionate about with anyone who might be interested. And that’s arguably what makes all of these hellsites worth their many, many downsides.


The Fact You Can Game While Driving A Tesla Reminds Us The NHTSA Is Totally Inept | Adam Ismail

“Much like a minor faking their date of birth on an age-gated website, a prompt to tap ‘I am a passenger’ is a flagrant dereliction of responsibility on Tesla’s part. The fact that warning message is even present in the first place is a tacit admission from Tesla itself that this is a serious issue — or at least one serious enough to pretend it cares about.”

Full disclosure: I think E!on M@sk is a Grade A Huckster Supreme who plays the media like a fiddle, but his clownery also frequently overshadows the fact that Tesla has driven some noteworthy advancements in the automotive industry faster than would have happened without him at the helm. Playing video games in your car, however, is not one of those things.

There are some truly fascinating things happening in the automotive world overall, but Tesla is like the enhanced ebooks or social reading of that industry; more smoke and mirrors than substance, regularly buoyed by uncritical hype, mostly coming from outside of the automotive world. Inside, there’s been a lot of insightful coverage and critique of various advancements—real and potential—and, fair warning, I’m going to dedicate a future issue to some of the best things I’ve read this year.


A classic car giant with a lofty mission: Save car culture | Brett Berk

“I don’t know how many companies there are that take the long way around. And that’s what Hagerty is doing here. They’re not only selling insurance. They’re trying to make sure that the reason you need that insurance is viable and fun, and lots of people are doing it. As a business strategy, it’s pretty smart.”

I’ve been intrigued by Hagerty’s media business ever since I signed up for insurance on the Corvair, but their broader mission to “save” and expand car culture is even more fascinating. They produce a great physical magazine, I’ve enjoyed a lot of their video programming, and even have their Christmas stocking hanging from our fireplace!

I was vaguely aware of their “save car culture” mission but didn’t really understand its full scope, nor how central it is to their vision. I cynically assumed it was just a good marketing slogan. Never stop driving, indeed!


2021 in Review: Comics Plus | LibraryPass (aka, ME!)

“We’re extremely thankful for our customers and distributor partners for putting their trust in Comics Plus, and we’re honored to work with our various publishing partners who believe in offering fair, affordable access to digital content in schools and libraries.”

In the waning moments of 2021, a year that will always be personally marked as The Year I Had a Stroke, I put together this overview at the day job as a public reminder of something good that happened. We’re a small team, most of whom I’ve still yet to meet in person, but we not only survived our first full year as a company, we thrived.

I’ve pretty much fully recovered from the stroke—albeit still with no good explanation for why it happened—and I have to partly credit the day job for my ability to bounce back as quickly and completely as I have. The flexibility of working from home obviously played a huge role in my initial recovery, easing back into things without worrying about stressful commutes or navigating bare minimum COVID protocols more concerned with saving the economy than people. As important, though, the mental benefits of doing something you enjoy with a group of people who are similarly committed to a clear mission can’t be underestimated.

The past two years have included a lot of bad things, both on a personal level and bigger picture, and 2022 doesn’t look like it’s going to offer any relief from either any time soon. Nevertheless, I’m going to continue focusing on the good things, and the things I can control, and keep pushing through the bad. That’s not resilience to me, it’s just practical.

“Go with what is. Use what happens.”

Thanks for subscribing and encouraging my random thoughts throughout the year. To be honest, I enjoy putting these together just for myself, but I’m glad other people find it useful, too.

Best wishes to you and yours for a happy and healthy new year!

Keep blogs alive! Share your thoughts here.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.