ThoughtStorms Wiki

Context: MetaVerse

VenkateshRao is trying to figure it out.


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.

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…”

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.

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.

Even if the 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…

…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”

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.

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 on which to run a decentralized publication using their suite of tools (a cross between kickstarter and wordpress).

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.

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

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