Paul and Rich love experimenting with new tech and love the idea of decentralization, so why are they so skeptical about Web3? This week Paul and Rich distill their feelings about Web3 and explain why they’re already bored by conversations about it. They ask: Is it really worth investing in something long-term if the only benefit is that you’re not missing out?
Paul Ford Look, I love you. You’re my friend. I’ve known you for a long time. I don’t want to live in a society you designed.
Rich Ziade [Laughs.] That’s very hurtful, Paul.
PF No, I don’t know a single person, including my own wife—I don’t even want to live in a society I designed.
[Intro music fades in, ramps up, plays 10 seconds.]
PF Hey Richard.
PF We have had a lot of people on to talk about what is broadly referred to as Web3.
RZ We actually had people on before the term came to be. We’ve had Aaron Lammer on who talked about Bitcoin and cryptocurrency. And then yeah, you’re right. Web3 took hold. We’ve had our friend Tim Meaney—
PF Has come on. He talked about it from a product manager’s perspective and as an enthusiast.
RZ DeFi he was into and all that. And then we had Mike Sippey on, who’s one of the more thoughtful product thinkers out there, sort of gave his perspective. He’s pretty excited about all the things happening under the—
PF You know, and I’ve been a little contrarian about it in public. I’ve also had a lot of backchannel conversations with various people who I won’t name. I won’t call them out, but like, who are like, you know, no, there’s something here. I want you to take it seriously and pay attention. So I’ve been doing that. I’ve been looking around, you’ve been poking around this world too. What are you finding?
RZ I don’t want to assume outcomes, right? There’s a lot of interesting, a lot of really smart people, a lot of interesting experimentation happening in this world. But I want to go ahead and call on a few aspects of it. Because I think—well, first off the term Web3. What is Web3? Where did that term come from? Web3 is a stroke of marketing and messaging genius.
PF I mean, it’s better than Web 2.0. And that was better than the Web.
RZ One more than Web 2.0.
PF Now it’s incremental. Like Web 2.0 was like either, depending on how you do math, either 100% or 50% better than Web 1.0. Right? But Web3 is only really a 33% improvement. So I don’t find that very motivating.
RZ [Laughs.] But also Web3 is really not about the Web, which I think speaks to—
PF Well, two things really. It’s like how important the Web is and also how incredibly broad the Web is now. Like you can kind of point to anything and be like that’s Web.
RZ Yeah. It’s kind of equated with the internet, right? Like just technology and phones is, you know, the Web, right? It’s all—
PF Everything’s powered by the Web.
RZ Yeah. So, you know, when you look at that term and you realize that it was a term that in my mind broadened its resonance beyond the sort of, the hobbyists and the people who were really passionate about crypto, it sort of shed a lot of the terminology. It just was essentially like, this is the future. This is where we’re going—
PF Well, it run on a wave of NFT enthusiasm too. So there was like a pop culture artifact that showed up that was like, you know, Gwyneth Paltrow has her bored ape yacht club avatar that she’s tweeting out.
RZ Right. I want to get to NFTs in a second.
PF Oh yeah. Let’s talk about NFTs.
RZ But you know, Web3, I mean, just let’s call it for what it is. It’s not a protocol. It’s not a standard. It is an umbrella term that frankly is as good as Where’s The Beef. Do you remember Where’s The Beef, Paul?
PF Do I remember Where’s The Beef? So Where’s The Beef, for people who don’t know, is a 1980s commercial from Wendy’s, the fast food restaurant who have the square hamburgers, where an older woman named, I believe, Clara Barton— that might be the name of a 19th century suffragist, but I’m not sure, but I think her name was Clara Barton—and she, in the commercial, she opened up a very large bun, hamburger bun, and she looked at it and it had a small disc of beef and she said, Where’s The Beef? And I’m going to tell you Richard—at that moment, she went Where’s The Beef? and America stopped. That’s who we were as a country. At that point, we were like, she—someone finally asked.
RZ The stock market is closed early. Yep.
PF Somebody finally said it. That’s where America went with Wheres The Beef? Like God dang it.
RZ It was pretty phenomenal.
PF She could’ve run for president at that point.
RZ Yeah, exactly. And I think she was on the talk shows and all that, but you know what was brilliant—
PF Oh yeah, I think political candidates—like I think Ronald Reagan was like, hey, we need to ask where’s the bee—like just everybody went for it. What does that have to do with Web3?
RZ I think the power of words, when you’re able to somehow piece together two or three words that can resonate and and carry forward on their own momentum and through just social dynamics—
PF We’re vulnerable here. We talk about things like digital transformation.
RZ Yeah! Yeah. I mean, we are marketers. We are not above marketing. We are marketers and Web3 is a brilliant marketing term. But remember who you’re marketing to—you’re marketing to funds that are looking to put money into future technology. Right? So you’re marketing—VCs are marketing to investors for their funds. So Web3 was just—it distilled it down to like a thick paste that is just a quarter of a cup. Right? And so—
PF Look, the value of technology marketing is that it takes something that is often very abstract, that doesn’t have clearly demonstrable value or where the value is promised. And it turns it into something that can be negotiated with it. It actually—not even to be a pun—it makes it fungible. Like I’m able to talk about, well, we’re going to invest in Web3. I cannot talk in the same convenient way about like we’re going to invest in a series of blockchain technologies related to digital autonomous organizations, right? Like—
RZ The VCs, you know, they have the benefit of being able to say, look, I know 90% of these are going to fall on their faces. That’s not the point. The point is that there’s gold in them. They’re hills and I’m gonna go and invest directionally in this space in a meaningful way. And I want to be there when it—and look, here’s the reality today. Coinbase is worth a ton of money. It’s publicly traded, which is strangely ironic. The fact that Coinbase is traded on the traditional stock exchange is a little hilarious. Let’s just say that out loud.
PF It’s a very ironic space, old Web3.
RZ I want to talk about—there are aspects of it that are frankly gross to me and I’m speaking personally and I’m no expert.
PF We have two jobs in this podcast. To give good faith advice to people who are interested in building new technology things and to help people along with their careers. Those are our jobs. So let’s take them one by one. We’ll talk about what we advise the clients. Then we’ll talk about what people should do about these technologies as they’re building their careers as product managers, technologists and designers.
RZ Yeah, no, I mean, I think that’s right. And look, and I do believe in sort of the unseen discoveries of tech, right? I am an optimist by my nature. I love the idea of experimenting and playing and then discovering, whoa, look at that. Look what just happened there.
PF Let’s just get down to brass tax for a second though. Do you buy it? Are you into Web3? And do you think there’s a lot there? Let’s start with yes or no.
RZ I don’t believe there’s a lot there. No, I don’t. I think it’s powered by some very compelling sort of intellectually tidy arguments that just like, whoa, I saw what you did there. You built that bridge. And that was cool. And that’s exciting. I want to say something about forward-looking speculative logic that is very, very appealing to humans. Right? And it is when you’re able to—I mean, it’s frankly the same mechanisms that power conspiracy theories and disinformation. It’s not that different. If you can sort of align the boxes so they line up neatly, you’re like, whoa, I guess they are connected. And so here we are. And so we better bet on this and I think what’s happening is—and that’s not to say there isn’t some connection down the road—what’s happening is people in the near term are capitalizing on it and exploiting it and creating a fear of missing out and creating a kind of gross—there are marketplaces that have arisen that just exploit people’s faith in what the future can bring.
PF That’s a key term, right? Like have you ever—you don’t spend a lot of time looking and thinking about megachurches, do you?
RZ I don’t. I don’t.
PF Okay. I do. So first of all, there’s actually, there’s software just for megachurches. Cause they’re big. And you know what megachurches have inside of them? I’m talking about churches with, you know, maybe 20,000 members you know. They’re kind of a stadium and a broad facility.
RZ Oh, it’s a big deal. It’s a big deal. Yeah.
PF Big deal. You know, they, you can get coffee at the megachurch and you can buy coffee at the megachurch or they have childcare or they have a gym. Like there are all sorts of things built into the megachurch and into the community. And when you’re looking for someone to do work on your house, let’s say, yep. You go to the—
RZ It’s a community,
PF It’s a community. And it’s an economically self-reinforcing community and there are benefits to belonging in the community if you share faith, if you share the same set of beliefs. You hold on. And I don’t have any problem with that because I believe deeply in the freedom of religion in America. I think that’s a very important principle and I support it.
RZ And it’s creating communities that support each other. So if people need help or if you need dental work, you just say the word and people find enormous joy in helping each other. And that’s a good thing.
PF Exactly. If that’s a community people are going to create, that is their freedom. I don’t like when the community tries to guide, you know, what my children are taught in school, but we’ll leave that to another podcast. So I feel that we’re kind of there. I’m going to tell you two things that I have with this stuff. First of all, I love all the technologies. Technologies are like babies. I like hammers and I like SQLite and I like programming languages. I love it. Look at my career. Every little bit of thing I think is so cool. Okay. And so all those Web3 ideas about decentralized stuff and peer-to-peer databases and accessing stuff and anyone can come in and do a transaction. I think it’s so cool, but I am bored out of my mind. I’m bored. And I never get bored, dude. I never get bored. I will read the SQLite source code. I like to know how my text editor works. I’m one of the most boring people you will ever meet in the course of your entire life. I will do anything if it’s related to technology in order to understand it, no matter how boring and I will do it over and over until I understand it. This is so boring to me. I cannot understand how something that’s supposed to be so exciting—because the art is garbage. It’s just garbage. There are absolute—
RZ Okay wait, you jumped ahead. You’re talking about NFTs. What’s boring you? NFTs are boring? Web3 is boring? Crypto?
PF It’s all boring. I’m so bored. I’m just so bored. Boredom is a very powerful signal to me because I’m rarely bored. [Richard laughs.] When I talk to people and they’re boring me, it’s usually because they’re kind of talking their book. They’re going like what—and this, this often happens in job interviews. If someone is boring me in a job interview and this is not like I expect people to be shiny and exciting. They could be talking about some complicated—
RZ They’re just not talking to you. They’re talking at you.
PF They’re not talking to me. They’re talking past me. And they’re telling me what I want to hear. And I get bored out of my mind. And that is what happens with blockchain and stuff. They keep telling me what I want to hear. And I’m like, okay, well I’ll go play with it. I will install, you know, what I want is MPM, install blockchain. Every time I go to set up a wallet, I have like 20,000 things to read.
RZ I mean the counterargument is you can do that. I mean it’s messy, but you can do it. Why don’t you just go do it?
PF Every time I try, I just drift away and I administer my own Linux machines for fun.
RZ But there are other people who are all in and that’s what they do all day.
PF I get it and—
RZ And they’ve got rows of GPUs. Right?
PF Yeah. Here’s what I don’t like. Here’s what I think I’m actually getting at something. I’ve been trying to get at it for a while. So let me see if I can articulate it. Technology to me has always had an evangelical aspect. Like people are like, Hey, you should check out Python. It’s a really good language. Or I remember somebody telling me about the Web, go look at the Web. Okay so like there is an evangelical aspect and it’s about a kind of like empowerment. And then you go in and you’re like, does this give me the tools that I need in order to kind of do cool stuff. Right? And so you would opt in and then you might become a little bit of an evangelist yourself. I’m an evangelist for a bunch of technology, especially open source stuff. With this I feel like I’m being sold and it bores me because it’s not like Paul, you’re gonna get more powerful or you’re gonna become a better writer or a better thinker. It’s just like come into this blobby pseudo-economic space where you are able to produce things and sort of put them into a decentralized system. Let me go back to the megachurch. I have seen—most NFTs are garbage. I’ve seen lovely communities around NFTs where artists are representing themselves well, and they’re buying each other’s work and they’re collecting it. And the work is interesting and I like it and I’ve actually—I tried to buy some and it didn’t work because I couldn’t figure out how to do it. But I don’t think that there—it’s like a, there’s nothing. I don’t think that at all. I don’t think it’s bad inherently. What I know is that being sold bores me and most of the conversation, whereas technology really excites and interests me, and the vast majority of conversation around this as a technology bores the crap out of me.
RZ I’m going to try to dissect what you’re saying and say it differently and actually get at the core of why you’re bored. I’m going to try to do that.
PF Please. Because I like, I just can’t take it anymore. And they also, because of who I am and what I do, people ask me to write about it and I’m like, I don’t care. Like I know how blockchain works now. Okay sorry.
RZ We’re old enough to talk about the Web. We were able to start to see, and there was a crash, there was the.com crash of the late 1990s, early 2000s, right?
PF Oh boom. Yeah.
RZ And the reason that crash happened is that too much capital went in hypervaluation and then boom it crashed.
PF It’s funny because all of the ideas later became like trillion-dollar ideas. But it was just, you know, delivering the pet food and web van and all that stuff.
RZ That’s right. It all needed a minute, right? It needed a minute for the tech to catch up to the dream. But more importantly, all of the promises of the early web were promises of changes of practical outcomes. Of things coming to your door, of tapping a few things on your phone and getting a car. Of all these conveniences, all these efficiencies that could kick in, all these opportunities to disrupt markets because you can not agree with Uber and Lyft, but Uber and Lyft fundamentally changed how we get a car to get somewhere.
PF The changes did happen. They didn’t change human nature, which was kind of the promise.
RZ That’s right. Yes.
PF But they did change the basic economic activity that happens in the world.
RZ I think that journey to disruptive change or new technologies that changes how we work or live or play or spend money, that journey of piecing the Lego pieces together and finding practical outcome is cool because you’re literally inventing. You’re inventing shit. Then what follows is financial outcome, right?
PF And you’re gaining power as you go. Even if you don’t get a big payout, you’re gaining power.
RZ Let’s assume you do get a big payout. The thing that I hear a lot about, and it’s partly because it started as money, the whole thing started as money, is they skipped the practical outcome and went right to the financial outcome. And so now the promise is if you just rejig these pieces a few different ways, right, you will get a financial outcome, right? So here’s kind of what I’m getting at. What I’m getting at here is that this is a glorious shortcut and here’s why it’s gotten gross, Paul. It’s gotten gross because 25 year olds and 30 year olds and 35 year olds are buying these digital assets with the promise and the dream that they will continue to go up in value. And you’ve got sports stars, celebrities, big name figures, essentially capitalizing on this.
PF I think we have to confess what we’ve been doing—
PF We’ve been going on a Discord and looking at NFT communities.
RZ Oh, it’s fascinating. We’ve gone to check out a couple of them. You know what ends up happening—here’s the narrative. A project debuts where they dump a hundred assets out and it could be pictures of, you know, sneakers and—
RZ Squirrels. People buy ’em when it goes out, they’re like, there’s the promise of just upward hockey stick trend of value.
PF Mint that bad boy, here we go. I got a squirrel, a squirrel wearing shoes.
RZ So what happens. Like so people are putting thousands of USD in other currency, in other crypto currencies to buy these things. Then they watch because the promise around a lot of them is the promotional and actual like real value that’s going to soon follow. Look, it’s trickier with a professional basketball player because it’s easier to sell that, right? Like he’s saying, it’s my own custom signature.
PF There is a history of things that symbolize athletes that are relatively rare getting more and more valuable like trading cards.
RZ What ends up happening on these Discords, Paul, is things start to flounder. People step in and are like, yo, what’s going on? I put a lot of money into this. Why is the floor price going down? And then what happens is the community, your megachurch, sort of converges on this person and says, whoa, whoa, whoa, this isn’t a flip and make your money. You’ve gotta be patient. The people who are behind this need time.
PF You need to believe.
RZ You need to believe! Yeah. You need to believe. That’s fundamentally the thing that is propping up a lot of the value today is belief. Is confidence. If confidence starts to wane, and we’ve seen, there’s plenty of stories out there of stuff where confidence has waned. And that to me is where it’s gotten gross. And I don’t blame Tim, Aaron or Michael for where they sit because I’m pretty sure they’re not doing that part of it, but it’s gotten to a pretty gross place.
PF I don’t have any problem with people being into assigning value to things that are relatively abstract. Like I bought—there was a magazine called The Spectator. That was kind of like the first magazine. And I bought a copy of it from the 1700s. It’s behind me as I’m talking to you and it costs 60 bucks. I got it on eBay. Because second editions actually aren’t—like first editions of this are in the many, many thousands, but like second editions are like 60 bucks. And so I got the second edition. I don’t crack that open. If I wanted to read it, I’d read it on my phone using the Project Gutenberg edition. Right? But I like having the thing. It’s a collectable object and it helps me think about history.
RZ But like you said, abstract value and stuff. I get it. I totally get it. I recognize it. But what’s happening—
PF I helped my son buy outfits on Fortnite the other day. He doesn’t want anything else. He doesn’t buy anything. He wants to buy outfits for characters on Fortnite.
RZ There’s one other aspect of this, which is one of the core arguments of why crypto is going to upend the world is decentralization. And I want to shift gears here. Talk about decentralization. I have a very particular—
PF Which I love. I love decentralization. I think it’s a cool thing.
RZ It’s a cool thing. Look, you know, the idea of not being locked into a currency and being able to get your money no matter where you are, even if you commit war crimes, is very appealing to some people. So here’s the thing about—I have two thoughts about decentralization. The first is it’s a myth and the reason it’s a myth is because the mechanisms tools, the conveniences, the usability is so sorely lacking that what’s happened and it’s not, it’s not going to happen. It has happened. What’s going to happen is people have capitalized on the gaps around the usability of it. The protection mechanisms around, or the brokerage needs around it, and have created businesses that are worth a hell of a lot of money. Can I cobble together my own wallet? If I like really do some digging for a few months on Github? Probably.
RZ What’s happened is Coinbase is a privately held company. Actually it’s a public company, but it is the marketplace where you trade. Kraken is similar. Then you’ve got the wallet startups, and they’re doing it because it’s just really, really painful to deal with a wallet. And what do those people have? They have your data. They have information about you. The centralization was inevitable because people like to capitalize on opportunities when new spaces arise and that’s okay. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing.
PF Take it back to our world. Auth sucked to the point that authenticating people is now a product that you buy with services like Okta or Auth0 or whatever. You buy logging in because logging in is hard to build and companies don’t want to build it. They want to buy it. You can’t have decentralization without some kind of authentication. People actually don’t want to have magical numbers that control their entire financial destiny that they could print out and throw away and never see again. And so it turns out, you end up with these sort of like half-secured solutions that give them a sense of control and offer privacy and security, but make it less likely that all of their money will just disappear. Which is what banks are. We like banks. Everybody [laughs.]
RZ Well, I mean, look, banks make money in ugly ways, but so does Coinbase. It’s the same thing. My brother had to sell a Bitcoin recently and he couldn’t believe the fees. It was like, I think a couple thousand dollars to do the transaction. It was wickedly expensive and he was shocked by it because he didn’t know right? He hadn’t sold any. He had bought only at that point. And what you have there is that bad? It’s not bad.
PF This is what VCs know. VCs know that you want to be the market. You don’t want to be the buyer or the seller.
RZ VCs know you want to be the market. And what they see is a lot of unclaimed land where businesses can arise and in effect—look the Web, the Web HTTP protocol is decentralized. That is what it is.
PF This is why I think this whole world is so attractive, especially to people who are really focused on sort of turning innovation into money, like the VC community. Because for them, the whole story of disruption online, it’s we will find buyers. We will find sellers and we’ll find those marketplaces. And we will build digital solutions that are faster and disrupt the incumbents. And that way we’ll get a cut of each transaction. We’ll move the transactions over. And what this says instead, what this world is, we will print marketplaces. We will go and make a marketplace-making machine. And then we’ll find the marketplaces that stick and will be the incumbents. And no one can disrupt us.
RZ Yes, that’s right. Does that mean there won’t be new conveniences and new innovations that will actually have real-world impact in positive ways? There may be. I don’t know. I’m not sure. This is another point I want to make about decentralization. And this is an I’ve heard from friends about, gosh, I just want my assets to not be tied to any government because they could take it away.
PF I just think that’s the same as people being like, we’re going to get a boat and go offshore.
RZ I mean, it’s in that spirit, right? I mean, here’s my response to that. That works if enough people do it such that you can just go live with those people: I was a billionaire. I said the world’s getting shaky. I was smart enough to move all of my assets except for maybe my house, which I’m going to burn down because I don’t want any evidence of my existence. I moved all my assets, my $2 billion net worth, into Bitcoin. The American economy collapsed, the Canadian soon followed because it was leaning on the American one, the Mexican followed because it was leaning on the American one, and then the world was really falling apart. But guess what? I got my Bitcoin. Right?
PF Hope electricity works. But yes. Okay.
RZ A few years pass and you know, the world is sort of this weird ashen place and I’ve decided I want to now go buy a house in Spain.
PF Okay. Spain remained. Spain stayed there. Good for Spain.
RZ Spain stayed there. And the reason I moved my money out is because I have a shady past. So I’m a drug Lord, let’s say, for example. Because if Bitcoin was around 30 years ago, the big drug Lords would’ve probably loved it. Right? Oh man. I don’t have to have mountains of cash.
PF Oh like Pablo Escobar. Yeah, of course. It’s great for that, yeah yeah.
RZ Yeah. All right. So I go to Spain, I’m like, Hey, my name is David Escobar. Yeah. That’s my dad. That’s crazy. Yeah. I know. I get that a lot. I want to buy a boat and a few houses. Okay. Where’s your money? And they say, Bitcoin, well, you know, I’m glad you kept it there. Congratulations. But you’re going to have to turn it back into Spanish currency so you can buy this shit. Right? And so no. So go somewhere else. And then there’s probably an island in the Pacific that fully honors Bitcoin where I can go do it there. The point is that the global economy is a network. So if you think you’ve somehow bypassed the network by coming out of some national currency, you still eventually want to come back into the network unless it is an island in the Pacific, which is lovely, I’m sure
PF This is just the horribleness of the whole life. Right? Which is that there’s no escape. There’s no escape from your body. There’s no escape from
PF There’s no escape from this planet. There’s no escape from taxes. There’s no escape from participating in an economy. There’s no escape from the legacy of messed up things that happened in the past where people were victimized and they’re still dealing with it. There’s no escape.
RZ It is the world.
PF There’s no escape from history and physical reality and climate and all that stuff. And we’re all—this seems to be—I think there was this moment and I think the internet really reinforced this idea of the escape.
RZ Meta is the escape.
PF Oh that’s right. We’re gonna go in the metaverse and then you’ve got Elon Musk saying we’re gonna get to Mars. Right?
RZ I mean somehow the metaverse at one point, I think it’s kind of pulled back. It just sort of got put under Web3. It was really, really weird, man. It was like, whoa, who dropped this in?
PF I’ll tell you, you know, who’s quiet lately?
RZ Richard: Who?
PF Everyone who works at Facebook.
RZ Oh yeah. I mean, it’s not Facebook. [Paul laughs.]
PF You’re just not hearing anything.
RZ You’re not hearing a lot. Yeah, no. But like who tossed that in the bag? Web3 is sort of this overarching thing that represents the next 15 years. And then Meta was like, why don’t you throw this in here? I don’t know if they did it or someone else. It was just banana cakes.
PF Here’s what’s real, right? A) Silicon Valley’s still doubling down on this stuff. It loves it. It thinks it’s really important. B) You and I have a responsibility to advise people about the next big thing. Whether we agree with it being worthwhile or not. And we also have a responsibility to people to help them with their careers, to bring them along to the next step. So I think I feel a little bit caught up in that because I feel that it’s really important to understand and connect to and understand what’s happening. Right? So people do need to get close enough to this stuff, but I just don’t buy any of it. And I want them to all go invest in Vanguard fund and just get incremental returns on the S&P 500 as opposed to messing around with magical monkey pictures.
RZ I agree with that. You know, do you bet a little? I think a lot of people are doing that. They’re putting like 5% of their money in it or whatever. It’s like, could we be wrong? Will we look back on this podcast and realize we’re all—we could be. That doesn’t take away the fact that there’s a lot of exploitation happening right now. There’s a lot of cynicism and manipulation happening right now.
PF It’s like the housing industry in 2008. Like, you wouldn’t be wrong if you said to someone, Hey, look out, there’s a bubble.
PF [Laughs.] Right? Like, it’ll crash. And then you also wouldn’t be wrong if you said it’s still worthwhile to put your money in property. Right? Like that’s not a bad—like it’s very tricky that way. It’s conceptually very messy. Okay. You be the advisor. I’m coming to you. I need to know, should I be investing a certain amount of my time and energy in Web3 technologies? I have a media company. Okay? I get money when people buy ads and give me subscriptions. What do you think I should be doing about Web3? Should I make an NFT? Should I get people to pay me Bitcoin when they subscribe? Like what should I do?
RZ Well, you’re asking me a few different things. You’re asking me if you should invest. And you’re asking if you should like, let the crypto trends inject themselves into your business strategy, right? Should you invest? You should invest a little because as much as we’re saying, this is all banana cakes, you know, some value has been created. There’s probably a baseline commitment around that value. And there’s—some invention down the road could arise. And so you should invest a little. Should you bet the house? I wouldn’t do that. No, I don’t think you should bet the house.
PF So this should not be a fundamental piece of your infrastructure, but if there are ways that it’s additive, go ahead and look at that type of thing.
RZ I think that’s right.
PF And if you can’t make a case for why it’s additive, that someone can understand in simple terms, you should be very suspicious.
RZ A good, you know, the way Twitter added in NFT avatars. I think they’ve taken them out. I think they tried it.
PF Paul: No, they’re still there.
RZ I think that’s the right—that’s the right level of sort of forward motion.
PF No, that’s right. They just dropped like a little bit of lemon flavor in the drink. Right? Like everybody—
RZ Exactly. So what they’re doing is they’re testing the waters.
PF Usually people get outraged by everything that Twitter does. And in this case it was like a day of like, this NFT garbage! And then everybody’s like, all right, whatever. Okay. If that’s your thing it’s fine.
RZ Yeah, exactly. Exactly. And I think that kind of diversification of strategy, sort of making this little bit over on the side, is okay. Now look, if you’re saying you’re taking a third of your resources and putting them on—I wouldn’t do that. But you know, Twitter has a lot of resources and it probably was 0.5% to even try that. Right? And they’re like, you know what? Let’s be in the mix here.
PF Yeah. And that’s like one product team.
PF That’s what you got. One product team out of 50, right?
RZ That’s as far as I would take it. Look, the fact that you asked the question means you’re afraid of missing the ride.
PF There you go.
RZ And if that’s the only value you’re seeing in doing it, if there is no value for your consumers or your readers, then take a beat.
PF And real value, you need to be able to tie this back to, and then I exchanged it and paid the transaction fees.
RZ That’s right.
PF And it turned into revenue in my old school bank account. Like if you can do that—
RZ Because someone else found that value, right? If you’re just selling the dream because you have to sell the dream and there’s no value beyond dreaming, then you’re on shaky ground. If you’re actually delivering something awesome.
PF Yeah but you know what you’re hitting at here? And this is real. So the internet and the industry that we’re in and building large web platforms, absolutely, in 202, drives revenues, you get to scale. People give money towards things. You see it in media, you see it all over the world. You see it all over the things that people build, they become money and they grow. Okay? And what happened for 15 years before that was something that was well understood and structured is everybody waved their arms around and said, welcome to the future. You gotta get in here.
RZ Yeah. Yeah. And look, we are technologists. The words digital transformation are on our website. We aspire to position you and help you be one step ahead of where things are going. Look, a lot of the consulting world, a lot of like the experts, the foresters and the gardeners, really sell anxiety. They sell to anxiety, right? They’re essentially telling you, listen, you’ve got to be in the know. This is your job. You have to be in the know.
PF We will help you make a safe bet.
RZ That’s right.
PF But I think like what we’re reacting to is that after 20 years of work, the internet is now a relatively concrete and stable set of infrastructures that I can point to and say, that looks like it could work for you. And you could build a career there and you can do good if you do like that. And I feel with the Web3 stuff, it’s back to the hand waving that I really didn’t like, right? I like the things where the money goes into the bank account. I think that’s good for the companies and the individuals building web platforms.
RZ I mean, again, they skipped the practical outcome and went right to the financial one. The promise is money or wealth. And they skipped actual value. And you can’t do that. You can do it a little bit. That’s what VCs do when they invest in a startup. They’re essentially saying you have no value today, but you may. And so I’m gonna bet on you. So betting is okay.
PF Let’s say I’m a product manager or designer. Put me on the floor and I need to plan for my career. I want to understand this stuff. I know people who are like, I will not touch this stuff with a 30 foot pole. I have other people in the world who are just like, this is the most exciting thing that’s ever happened. What would you say?
RZ Product managers and designers build products. If you are building a product that has obvious value that is gonna make somebody more efficient, help somebody make better decisions, do something well, then you’re a product manager. You have to think about that consumer. What are you thinking about on behalf of that consumer in this world? What are you giving them? Put aside, if I take away the promise of wealth down the road, what are you giving the consumer?
PF Can you give them value in the mode? When they tap the button, can you give them value?
RZ Can you? Maybe, I mean, you might smile if you see the NFT image of the monkey, maybe? Is that the value? Collecting stuff?
PF Yes. The sense of ownership, but that is not a paradigm shift in the way that the people who broadcast it think it is, right? Like there have been ways to own and feel connected to things. I mean, we could also be talking here about stuff like that Masterworks product where, you know, they want you to buy in to fractional shares of artworks because, you know, wow, we finally securitized this in a scalable way and I’m just sort like, that’s a bad scene too. Right? Like I just look at that and I’m like, Ooh, that’s a rough signal for like—
RZ I’ll just be old for one second and say, look, if I’m going to get a masterwork, I want it on my wall. In the den.
PF You don’t want to own a fractional share of a Banksy? That’s not attractive to you?
RZ Look, I think I’d love for anyone listening to this podcast that is really an advocate who’s hearing what we’re saying and the arguments we’re saying come back on. I think this is an ongoing conversation. You know, we’re making some blanket assumptions here.
PF Well, this is the thing. I’m really trying, I will continue to engage with this.
RZ Oh yeah, sure.
PF But I also want to acknowledge my boredom. I feel that it’s time for someone—
RZ I think it’s an interesting way to frame it.
PF You know? And if it’s just wallets and DeFi apps and just charts that go up and down and a bunch of monkeys, then you didn’t interest me. And that’s okay. You’ve got your thing. But I won’t take it seriously. And I refuse to believe that it is the global economy until it’s at least interesting.
RZ It’s a fair point. And it’s an interesting one from a technologist, right? Who wants the Lego blocks to play.
PF There’s a technology I love. It’s called SQLite. It’s a little database in the file system and you can do amazing things with it. It’s like a programming language. It’s really cool. And I will never get tired of it. I just think it’s the best thing in the world. And I like it. And where is that? Like, can I download that? Can I play? When can I play?
RZ Well, I mean, you can, there’s all kinds of tools that are out there. But what you’re talking about is that SQLite is a wonderful building block that lets you do all kinds of other things. Right. And whereas here, it’s kind of the beginning and end is the picture, is the asset, right? Is the thing. Right? And look, there are bankers out in the world who have never actually seen a barrel of oil, but made a lot of their wealth trading it. So, you know, I know the counterarguments, I’ve heard them out there about how this stuff is going to—
PF I think that’s the thing, like here’s where I’m at. And I think, you know, obviously we shouldn’t keep belaboring it. But I believe that I have heard all the arguments I believe I have gotten in good faith. I do believe there are cool communities that are being built and that people are feeling, you know, really connected to each other over this. And it’s really positive. And I think there’s also a lot of really grim stuff where someone’s on a Discord saying like, don’t go paper hands. And all that’s happening. So great. And I’m really happy for you. It’s so weird for me because you can almost always get me. You can always get, oh, oh, well, here we go! Oh my gosh. I’m like 30 years into just being really like, whoa! Another thing just happened with the computers! And I just can’t get there. And I swear to baby whatever that I have tried.
RZ Speaking of navigating digital transformation, Paul, there is no better firm than Postlight to be a partner.
PF Exactly. We’re going to help you out. If you don’t have some clear Web3 strategy, that’s okay. There is so much value and so many things to be built that will drive real revenue to real users and make them happy and excited and connected to you, using web—I hate to say it, Rich—Web 2.0.
RZ 2.5. Let’s keep going.
[Outro music fades in, ramps up.]
PF Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah. We remain committed to building those really stable, reliable platforms that drive a lot of growth. I love those things. They’re wonderful. They’re still really interesting.
RZ Check out our case studies at postlight.com. Reach out at email@example.com. We love giving advice. We love meeting new people and sharing our ideas and thoughts or hearing your ideas and thoughts and reacting to them.
PF It is a good team. We work for all kinds of industries.
RZ This is an ongoing conversation.
PF [Sighs.] Does it have to be?
RZ It doesn’t have to be. We can talk about, you know—
PF No, I know. No, we’re back here in a couple months. There’s no way to avoid‚
RZ [Laughs.] Exactly.
PF Yeah. It’s Web3 in 2022. It’s just what it is.
PF Well, look, Richard, it felt good to say out loud that I’m bored. It felt real good. And I I’m sure that like—
PF People are going to write me and yell at me and I’m ready for that.
RZ They’re going tell you how not to be bored. And then you’re going to realize what that means. And then you’re going to probably be bored still, but that’s the discussion that’s happening right now. That’s what’s happening.
PF Okay. Hello@postlight.com.
RZ Cheer up, Paul. We’re gonna make it through this! [Paul laughs.]
PF I still love the internet. All right my friend.
RZ Have a great week, everyone.
PF Okay, I’ll talk to you. Bye.