Happy New Year friends 👋
I can hardly believe that another year has passed for me and for this project that I started back in January of 2021. In many ways, this was the best year yet. So, before I look ahead to 2024, I want to take a moment to reflect on 2023 - for myself and for those of you who are just tuning in - to truly appreciate what has been going on here.
Something Old, Something New(sletter)
At the end of January last year, I launched the first issue of my newly reimagined newsletter. In contrast to my old publication of the same name—something I wrote sporadically as a form of bonus content for patrons—this new version of Thumbs' Update was very similar to what you're reading now. It would be a monthly digest, combining an overview of things I've been thinking about, announcements about new content with additional context, and my favourite part: content recommendations.
Since Twitter shut down Revue, their newsletter app, I figured I should probably use Substack since it had attracted many of the best writers at the time. So, the first issue was released on February 1st, 2023, and was then ported to Mirror a few days later. I recommend going back to read that first post to see where it all began.
For a while, I cross-posted between Substack and Mirror but eventually decided to make Mirror the official home for all my content. I later added Paragraph as a form of redundancy, mostly to test its features and provide honest feedback and critique. However, to this day, no platform has felt more like home than Mirror, where you're almost certainly reading this.
I began my journey in crypto content creation through the PoolTogether community. Leighton, the co-founder of PoolTogether, funded my first article and video through Buy Me a Coffee in 2021. After that, I applied to the PoolGrants program multiple times and was able to finance various tutorials, which were quite costly since they mainly focused on Ethereum mainnet.
This year, around the same time I launched my newsletter, I was also invited to join the PoolTogether Growth Team. Initially, our group consisted of about 8 individuals creating content across different platforms and sharing a distribution of funds on Coordinape every two weeks. Each quarter, we had to request a budget for an onchain vote by POOL token holders. Throughout the quarters, we had to make adjustments until, in the most recent period, the team was reduced to only 4 members who were paid piecework for their specific contributions such as predetermined articles, videos, podcasts, and YouTube shorts.
I am incredibly proud of the content I produced during this period, as well as the experience I gained while working in fully distributed teams. I learned how to coordinate cross-promotion of content, manage shifting deadlines, and navigate the intricacies of decentralized governance procedures. In December, however, it was decided that the growth team would be dissolved and so I decided to go out with a bang, releasing three videos showcasing the protocol.
You can learn all about those videos in this post ⬇
The Gift That Keeps on Giving
One of the pieces of content I created during my time on the growth team was a deep dive article about PoolTogether v5. In it, I explain in detail how to begin using the newest version of the PoolTogether protocol through a variety of different interfaces.
Unbeknownst to me, Layer3, the massively popular onchain gamified quest platform, shared my article in one of their quests as an optional step titled "Read & Mint"
This led to an explosion of completely unexpected notifications from my wallet, telling me I had received 0.0042 ETH (the price I set for most of my collectible content). Within a week or so, I had made over $1000 and earned a lot of new subscribers too. I was aghast yet incredibly grateful. I was proud of that content, but I had never expected it to earn me anywhere near that kind of income.
And it came at the perfect moment, helping me to purchase something I desperately needed.
A Laptop of My Own
Since the beginning, I've created content for this blog, my YouTube videos, and pretty much everything else using a laptop that I didn't own. Despite my better judgment, I used the only Apple computer I had access to - a work-issued MacBook Pro - because it was the best tool for the job.
Over the past several months, things have gotten rocky at my day job. The realization that management had mismanaged finances and the entire division I work in is at risk of being dismantled made me realize that I needed to get everything off my laptop and formulate a backup plan quickly.
A lot of people don't know this, but I'm not getting rich from creating all this content. I have a lot of debt from my college years and some bad financial decisions in my twenties that I'm still reckoning with. I liquidate most of what I earn making content to pay down my debts. I also invest a lot in this project, including the website, ENS names, graphic design, one-time payments, and subscriptions to various professional software. A huge chunk (around 30%) also needs to be set aside to pay taxes.
So, whenever I've needed something, I've put myself out there. And incredibly, the amazing people of the internet have been very kind to me. In November, I ran a crowdfunding campaign to raise funds to buy a laptop. Although that campaign was unsuccessful and the funds were returned to the supporters, the experience reminded me of why I do this - to connect with people through creativity. I'll talk more about that later.
With the unexpected income from the aforementioned article, I was able to purchase a MacBook Air. This has taken so much weight off of me, no longer relying on a laptop that could be taken back at any moment. Even in the face of uncertainty, I feel far more optimistic than before.
If you want to learn more about this experience and how it helped me reflect on everything from crowdfunding to communism, I recommend checking out the December issue of Thumbs' Update, titled "Pillars of Support." It's one of my favourite issues I've written so far.
That's enough reflecting, though. Let's turn our eyes towards the future now.
Onward, Into the Unknown
We're only a few hours into 2024 as I'm sharing this, but I'm facing a future rife with uncertainty. I'll be trying to exit my current career, after almost a decade, in favour of something new and exciting - and hopefully better paying! I don't know what that will entail. Will I have more time to write? Or less? Will I be working in web3? Or will I be cast aside before I can pivot, forced to work in a coffee shop or a bookstore to make ends meet? Don't get me wrong: I love coffee shops and bookstores! But I'm not sure I can look optimistically at such a pay cut given my circumstances.
Furthermore, without the Growth team helping to provide a certain financial stability, much of the content I make could be a gamble, with me hoping to recoup some value after the fact. If you followed the saga with my Optimism RetroPGF application, you'll know that this particular style of gambling doesn't always pay off.
Nevertheless, I press on. I mean, what am I to do: stop creating? I don't much like that idea. So I'll hustle twice as hard to make this project a success - on my own terms as always. And I'll try to find a day job that not only suits me but gets me out of this financial rut. That way, I can do this primarily for passion, such that any income I earn can be a bonus rather than a necessity.
So that's what will be happening in the background. Now, I want to share with you, my wonderful readers, three resolutions that will guide this project in 2024.
1. Go All In On Web3
Just as I shirked Substack for Mirror, so too do I hope to ditch twitter entirely for the greener pastures of web3 social. Like Vitalik, I find myself more inclined to post on Farcaster where real conversations take place. I'll be doing some content about this burgeoning social networking protocol soon, so if you have no idea what I'm talking about, fear not, all will be revealed, my friend.
I'm also continuing to explore the Lens ecosystem of apps. I've shared my last three videos not just on YouTube, but also on the onchain video platform Tape.xyz.
One thing I love about web3 is the experimentation and the way successful features tend to permeate across the ecosystem. Take, for example, lazy minting. For years, Mirror has allowed writers to release collectible posts without paying any gas. The cost of initiating the contract is built into the transaction of the first person who collects. On an L2, this expense is negligible and more than worthwhile for the improvements to overall user experience (UX).
Recently, Zora added the ability to create NFTs even if you don't have any ETH in your wallet (via the same technique of lazy minting). Like Mirror, this small UX decision has inspired many crypto newbies to begin exploring onchain. A massive onboarding moment.
Zora then added a feature where the first person to mint earns a small reward (paid from Zora's protocol fee), and they can earn that fee over and over again every time someone collects the NFT, in perpetuity. Well, guess what? Mirror added the same thing soon afterwards.
So now, if you're the first person to mint this newsletter, or any other post of mine, you'll earn a small reward every time someone else mints. Hint hint 😉
By the way… Nothing in this newsletter is financial advice. Articles are unlikely to return value to those who collect them, beyond the value of joy, knowledge, and time well spent, that is. So keep that in mind as you click this button.
2. Create More Content
I started blogging because I love to write. I mean, isn't it obvious? Every time I try to write one of these monthly newsletters, it ends up being around 3000 words. So in 2024, one of my goals is to expand the content I create. I want to write more topical blog posts, explaining various protocols and platforms, and even some basic concepts of blockchain and web3. Additionally, I want to write more of these newsletters, dividing my thoughts into smaller, more digestible pieces.
Personally, I really enjoy reading long articles. I set aside time and devour posts that are 2000-3000 words long ever day or two. For posts over 5000 words, I'll use Readwise Reader to listen to them. However, I understand that some of you may lose interest in the middle of the bulk of paragraphs strewn before you. For that reason, I always use headers and structure my posts in a way that allows you to focus on the sections that interest you. But I am coming around to the idea that writing 2-4 shorter newsletters per month would be better for most readers.
Beyond the blog, I also plan to create more videos and experiment with threads and conversational content on platforms like Farcaster. To make it easy to find all the different types of content I create, I recently developed a new format of newsletter which I’m calling Thumbs' Uploads.
Check out the first issue here ⬇
Producing content is a form of creative labor, and as such, I need to find a way to fund it. Fortunately, I have spent nearly three years experimenting with patronage, and I believe I am finally hitting my stride, allowing for the kind of niche content I want to create to find its audience and for that audience to help sustain it.
This brings me to another major goal for 2024.
3. Connect with Patrons
There is a delicate balance that the patronage model forces upon a creator. We must strive to make our supporters feel appreciated and show gratitude by producing the content we think our audience wants to see. However, we must also avoid tailoring our content so much that we end up essentially selling the service of generating bespoke content for our patrons, as that would make them clients. Patronage, after all, is about rewarding someone for what they actually do, not hiring them to do something you want them to.
In that regard, I have always refrained from offering things like private telegram channels with supposed alpha or advice. It is not something I would excel at or want to do anyway. That said, I do want to provide something to my patrons as a perk for supporting me.
For months, I have offered a segment in this newsletter where holders of my claymation patronage NFT can ask questions, and I will answer them in detail in the newsletter for the benefit of everyone. It’s something that I really enjoy, and I am happy to continue it, but going forward, instead of it being exclusive to these NFT holders, it will now be open to a new group: subscribers.
Allow me to elaborate. Fabric, the folks behind the onchain crowdfunding protocol I tried in November, recently introduced a unique approach to offering onchain subscriptions that they call Hypersub. In the first issue of Thumbs' Uploads, which was released a day after I officially launched my own, I wrote the following:
When Hypersub launched, I knew I had found the next iteration on what I'd been trying to build with Hey Friends! (the aforementioned patronage NFT project). So I spent some time planning and finally, yesterday, I launched my new patronage project, an ongoing "subscription" of sorts called Subs Up.
Subs Up is a way to become a monthly patron for the term of your choice by choosing how many months to support for and minting the corresponding NFT. It's paid with ETH on Optimism mainnet and each month is priced at 0.0042 ETH, or about $10 at today's prices. It's not a streaming payment and currently there's no way to pay by credit card, but that may be in the works so stay tuned.
I'm really excited about the unique opportunities this approach allows for, especially in terms of making it easy to offer perks to patrons.
Speaking of perks, here are some of the benefits for subscribers:
Q&A: For as long as a patron is active, they will have direct line of communication with me, allowing them to send in questions and comments which I will try to incorporate into future content. One example of this is Q&A, a feature for existing patrons that allows them to ask a question to be answered long-form in the monthly newsletter. Question-askers may request to be anonymous or have their social handle/ENS featured as a form of self-promotion.
Recognition: Each newsletter will include a list of all patrons active at the time of publishing. For patrons with higher value commitments there may be additional flair to indicate their support.
NFTs: Each patron who commits to 3 months of patronage or who renews for 3 months or more, will receive a free airdrop of my animated clay NFT "Hey Friends!"
More NFTs: During each month of active subscription, holders will receive any free mints from my thumbsup.eth or retrofurist.eth projects as airdrops. Paid mints (should they occur) will either be discounted, whitelisted, airdropped at my discretion.
Subscriber rewards are enabled at 2.5% with bonus multipliers for early supporters.
Referral rewards are set at 5%
And there's even more, including unlockable stretch goals, all of which can be found here ⬇
A few people have already decided to become Subs Up members and one has already sent in a question that I'm looking forward to answer.
Q & A
Are these latest shitcoins (points, spam, farts, etc.) any different than past shitcoins?
What a fantastic question. You know I was going to put as one of my resolutions to “stop fomoing into ponzi schemes” but I knew it was too unrealistic and didn't want to say it publicly where I could be held accountable
Let's start with a little background for those who don't know what we're talking about. With the exception of Bitcoin maximalists who refer to every non-Bitcoin cryptocurrency as a “shitcoin,” most people who use this term mean something more specific:
A shitcoin is a cryptocurrency with zero or close to zero value and no utility. [... They are] often created with no intention to have utility besides speculation on a rising token price. Many shitcoins do not hide the fact that they have no intrinsic value and even try to play on the notion of being a bad investment. As such, they are considered extremely risky investments since they can yield outsized gains but have no fundamental value and can lose all of their value in a bear market.
These tokens Taliskye mentioned were mostly birthed in the past month on Farcaster in the degen channel where memes sparked highdeas that sparked a mini mania. After several platforms (FriendsTech, Warpcast, Rainbow Wallet) added offchain rewards in the form of “points” one user had the idea to launch a cryptocurrency capitalizing on the meme and created POINTS.
It took off and went crazy earning some early investors and lucky bystanders a massive return. The token's creator who hadn't accounted for such a rapid rise in popularity and by extension market cap, decided to step back from the project, ceding control of the treasury to Seb Audet, the co-founder of Zapper, and renouncing the contract.
This action is, in my opinion, what makes POINTS interesting. In the hands of a team with a history of building engaging user experiences like the Zapper burn-to-mint NFT games, this project has a better chance than if left with the creator or completely abandoned.
I don't give investment advice and I tend to believe these kinds of tokens are destined to leave a majority of people who go chasing after them with little to nothing to show for it. But I will say this: POINTS is a great name.
As for the other tokens you mentioned, these are all so niche as to be sort of esoteric. For those who missed it, after the frenzy of POINTS, the degen channel on Farcaster went crazy. Everything that could be memed into existence as a token was. The three best examples of this were probably:
WOWOW - the iconic Farcaster meme born from a bot(?) reply to one of dwr.eth's posts, which was entirely unrelated to the OP and simply said "wowow." Given how niche this one is, I really don't expect it to take off, but you never know.
FARTS - Closely related to wowow, FARTS is a reference to some people jokingly calling Farcaster "Fartcaster." On its merit as a Farcaster-centric meme I don't expect it to take off, but this might randomly get picked up in the future and see a second run up. This would be for no other reason than that it's stupid and easy to remember.
SPAM - this is a novel and interesting idea. Novel and interesting in a bad way. This token basically encourages people to post low-quality, shill content. I think it's interesting in how it integrates with farcaster, but I think it's probably destined for low value as there's likely to be more sell pressure than buy pressure and I don't expect the meme to stick around long.
Again, none of this is investment advice. With respect to shitcoins, and even a lot of functional tokens like governance tokens or the gas tokens of alt L1s, my opinion is that most of this is way over-valued and you can only make money on it by dumping it onto someone else. It's zero sum. I consider it to be gambling, so if everyone knows what they're getting into, and has budgeted that money as an expense, similar to a night of drinking at the bar, or some junk food, then it's none of my business how you choose to spend your money. Just remember, these tokens were birthed in a channel called degen for a reason.
Now for something I do feel confident promoting...
First up, here’s something that I think demonstrates some of the good coming out of Farcaster. Kiwi, a Farcaster native HackerNews clone, now allows for tipping using Dawn Wallet's built-in Dawn Pay feature. It's insanely cool and could be the start of the micro-tipping future that allows a robust, user-centric, peer-to-peer internet to thrive.
And the tech is a study in user-first design:
Dawn Pay searches for the cheapest and fastest way for you to tip a Kiwi submitter. It recommends you this route in your wallet. Most of the time, that’s sending USDC on an L2, but it also has an ETH fallback. No cumbersome searching and selecting your route manually!
Learn more ⬇
Speaking of the web we deserve, here's a long read from a writer I've really been enjoying to read, Joan Westenberg, aka DAOJoan. In this post Joan explores the failings of the internet as we know it and how we might fix these issues.
Finally, one subject I've really enjoyed writing about is Leftism. When I first got into crypto, I was put off by how much it was associated with right wing, anarcho-capitalist ideals, but, as time went on, I realized these tools that we're building are made for coordination, for cooperation, and that screams leftism to me.
Left anarchism and other forms of socialist philosophy can seem abstract, especially because the united states has worked hard to miseducate people into conflating Marx's critiques of industrial capitalism in the 19th century, with the outcomes of the totalitarian regimes in the 20th century, that claimed to be communist. This despite the fact that these Marx did not invent communism and these regimes were not upholding the tenets he did propose.
Anyway, I came across this great video from The School of Life that explains in simple terms who Karl Marx was and what he believed. I want to be very clear about something: watching this will not make a communist. All it all it will make you is someone who actually knows (a little bit of) what they're talking about when they talk about Marxism.
From Substack to socialism. Can’t say I don’t take you on a journey, eh? Let’s leave it there for now.
Until next time,
This issue of Thumbs’ Update was brought to you thanks to the gracious support of my Subs Up patrons:
You too can become a monthly supporting patron to unlock special perks on Hypersub
And for the privacy minded patron, I accept anonymous tips with Zcash to my shielded address:
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