Politics and tech are certainly strange bedfellows. The Gang loves to talk about filibusters and the fall of democracy, but forget it when I try to bring up my fascination with live audio. That is understandable; we never talk about the little stuff until there’s a battling billionaire angle. So it was that Jack Dorsey’s joust with Marc Andreessen over what the meaning of web3 is is brought all the web2 superstars into the thread. Tim O’Reilly, John Battelle, Chris Dixon, Catch 22’s Milo Mindbender (ok, Moxie Marlinspike?) and even web1’s Leo Laporte weighed in.
Since Covid blocked physical events, we’ve reluctantly moved to another buzzword sweepstakes dubbed the Metaverse. I agree with Keith Teare that this dog won’t hunt due to the stylistic reluctance to wear large hardware objects on our forehead, but there’s a lot more to virtual events than meets the eye. Before the pandemic, more and more meetings were moving online as we tried to juggle back-to-back appointments at the office. It was easier to switch from room to room regardless of physical location, travel time or lack of it, and the innate competition with messaging systems like Slack and civilian texts over iMessage, FB Messenger, and whatever Google Chat was renamed this week. With competitive information constantly flowing in in real time, product strategy has morphed into analytic harvesting of that interactive metadata that drives feedback on the network into design, time to market, and distribution.
Replacing large conferences with virtual working groups mostly goes on behind the corporate firewall, but message testing goes on in the clear. The context is the appsphere, and Clubhouse is a living tutorial in gaining scale through the same kind of access model the old conferences deployed. A gated ropeline establishes a kind of green room access where you can renew connections and establish trust with keynoters and technologists. The possibility of being asked up on stage is where the media is conscripted. Newsletter players like Josh Constine and Casey Newton advance from the tech pub ranks to serve as midwives for the startup churn and casting couch for the venture class. The elixir of media savvy and hallway access is what the conference makers charge for.
A few nights ago I sat transfixed as Adam McKay, the director, and two producers told the story of Don’t Look Up as the movie spooled out on Netflix. The Clubhouse room reverberated for over 2 hours as the filmmakers did a deep dive on the production of the funny, dark, and beautiful story of a meteor heading toward a fatal rendeyvous with Earth. Some of the great books of my fascination with the art and technology of making films flashed through my mind: Truffaut’s conversations with Hitchcock, Pauline Kael’s treatise on Citizen Kane, the moment in Annie Hall when Woody Allen drags Marshall McLuhan out from behind a sign to confront a know it all professor — “You know nothing of my work. How you came to be a professor of anything….” Every frame of Kubrick’s lexicon. The great comic minds gathered around the Algonquin rountable.
And to hear in shared real time McKay tell his tale of what the making of the film meant to him and his team, to share the goals and strategies for producing a film which certainly resonates with the pandemic, filmed in the beginnings of the catastrophe when there were NO vaccines yet invented. The nuances of his approach to combining the script he wrote with the magical improvisations of his actors. It went on and on, and you could hear McKay’s delight at being a part of this coming together of technology and the spirit of inspiration. And you can find the link to the replay of the event for your own examination nestled at the top of the Replay list. Virtual yes but tangible in its emotion and flawless execution. I actually liked the Clubhouse a little more than the movie, yet the aftereffect was to like the movie even more for the experience. Maybe this Metaverse is a thing after all.
the latest Gillmor Gang Newsletter
The Gillmor Gang — Frank Radice, Michael Markman, Keith Teare, Denis Pombriant, Brent Leary and Steve Gillmor. Recorded live Friday, January 7, 2022.
Produced and directed by Tina Chase Gillmor @tinagillmor
@fradice, @mickeleh, @denispombriant, @kteare, @brentleary, @stevegillmor, @gillmorgang