This past week was metaverse week in my office. Several eye-opening conversations on the scale and scope of ambition and investment in the space. Obviously, not entirely a surprise… Facebook renaming to Meta and Bob Chapek getting asked about Metaverse strategy on Disney earnings calls were hints. 😉 What has been interesting is to talk to people who see beyond the hype and understand which parts matter. Inspires this week’s first link.

  • WTF is going on with “The Metaverse”?: One of the best things I’ve read this week on the metaverse. It’s unpretentious and just the right amount of cheerleading optimism. The authors work for Meta, but this isn’t necessarily (only) about Meta’s ambitions. Good place to start the week.
  • Factal: Does anyone I know work for a company with a Factal subscription? I’d love to talk to you about how well it works for your organization. I’m really curious why a traditional news organization wouldn’t want to do something liek this, especially one with a global reach.
  • Playdate SDK: Panic is one of the software companies I really admire. Independent, fiercely opinionated about good software. Recently, they’ve gotten into hardware, releasing the Playdate, a quirky little gaming device. I’m dying to get mine (preordered during the initial week of sales), so I’m excited to get my hands on the SDK while I’m on my sabbatical.
  • Magic Band Reader: Wouldn’t be a Monday links post without a maker project. If you have a bunch of Magic Bands sitting around from Walt Disney World, this project can give you a way to bring a little magic back home. This looks fun.

Finally, a couple of links that go together:

With the war in Ukraine, it’s been remarkable to see the speed and near unanimity of the reaction from the global community. Sweeping sanctions, widespread public showings of support for Ukraine, and unprecedented actions from many countries - for example, Germany selling weapons to Ukraine.

Tech folks tend to look at everything with a bias towards the influence of technology. For example, Ben Thompson, of Stratechery fame, made the point that Twitter forces a certain sort of conformity in public opinion. At the same time, no sanctions happen this fast without real people on the ground to do the hard work of real diplomacy.

So, two links to examine the two perspectives - both are very, very good and worth listening to, especially the Times podcast:

  • Ben Thompson on Twitter: From the Dithering podcast, a subscription only podcast with Thompson & John Gruber. This excerpt gets to the meat of their point (and it’s free).
  • How Europe Came Around on Sanctions: An excellent interview by The Daily podcast at the NY Times with their Brussels bureau chief. She goes into some of the things that led to the sanctions - the role of a EU bureaucrat in rallying member delegations into alignment and the role of Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s first post invasion calls with European heads of state. Human relationships and face-to-face conversations at the center of it all.

I share these things because as I’m thinking about trust and news and our political discourse (and in what will come with the metaverse, if it’s really going to happen), I’m coming around to the idea that our major social platforms really are fundamentally broken. They aim for scale and zero friction to share and engage, which makes them great amplifiers - the reason Twitter is consequential in Ben Thompson’s framing.

The thing is, the nuances of human relationships are broadly missing in these platforms. Each connection is the same as every other connection, and my treatment of each is largely identical on these scaled platforms - I share things and everyone sees it the same way. That’s not how real life works.

It’s also not how we build trust - professional or personal. The story in the Daily episode about Bjoern Seibert’s approach to the EU member states is a very consequential example, but it’s fundamentally the same way kids convince their parents to buy them a toy, or how you or I may navigate friends who don’t have identical politics.

All of this to say: this software guy is wondering what the software solution can be to encourage that interpersonal communication and relationship building. More in the coming weeks on this.

Sorry for the long, preachy end there. I find this stuff fascinating.