Behind the Scenes of 2023
This year is actually a lot more difficult to write about than I imagined. In a lot of ways, it has been the most stressful yet fulfilling year of my adult life. Many roadblocks led down a path of desperation, starting with a surge of harmful ego, ending with attempts at letting it all go. All the while riding this rickety rollercoaster journey to self-discovery through community care.
Instead of breaking the year down into each month, making this issue extremely long, let’s stick with seasons for ease.
The most externally facing excitement happened this Winter, with tons of creativity surging around the launch of ‘Together’ NFTs in January. Thus far there are 257 tokens in the wild with 48% unique owners.
Quite a nervous time launching anything like that for the first time, of course, running into speedbumps here and there that always seem to resolve themselves with time. For a few days in the beginning, I was actually sick with anxiety.
This massive wave of sudden responsibility knocks you to the ground. As time passes, though, it sort of normalizes, and pushing through it gets easier.
At first, the purpose of Together was largely undefined, a place for community builders to share knowledge. Though this remains one of the benefits of the current iteration of the community, which we’ll get into later, I felt the need to further define a vision that better fits how I see the space we are operating in. Things learned in Winter:
Dabbling in software like After Effects, Canva & Figma early on helped when I really needed them later on
Just start something, fear be damned
The spark of creativity starts with putting ideas to paper, not stuck in your head
Share ideas with close friends— they’re no good kept to yourself
I continued hosting a weekly Twitter Space chat series called Who Are You from late 2022, which was an open-mic opportunity to interview folks as they came in. This ended in late Winter due to a number of reasons; attendance, my own stamina for Spaces, the desire for a consistent co-host, lack of pre-planned interviews, etc., important lessons learned there for sure.
Now, here’s where things started to get fun, but likely burnout started to kick in. I put a lot of pressure on myself throughout the year, especially during these months.
Spring started off by getting accepted into the CPG Club Accelerator Spring cohort. There are few opportunities to kickstart learning than being part of an accelerator. Here are a few things I learned:
How to properly make a pitch deck + write a pitch script
Getting feedback on ideas isn’t as scary as it seems, neither is giving feedback
Forcing yourself to just figure it out and build something is better than taking no action at all, even if you have no idea what you’re doing
Networking with other builders who learn alongside you is a superpower for any community but can be quite distracting
I got a lot of incredible feedback from the CPG Club Accelerator that helped iterate on ideas that would help pivot Together into Cloud Scouts in April.
Spring shoutout to SheFi Cohort 8 💫 - being part of this season at the same time as an accelerator AND iterating on an entire brand was rough! I received a scholarship from Polygon to attend this cohort. Genuinely inspired to see so many women coming into the space during a deep bear market to learn about the boundless opportunities in tech.
This was the season when digital identity really started to take off in my periphery. While others have taken the route of being interested in ENS, PFPs as identity markers and the like, I found an aligned opportunity for cultivating a decentralized identity through verifiable credentials.
Thanks to incredibly brilliant women like Evin McMullen, aka provenauthority, who have taught me so much along the way.
I describe Summer as a blur because I genuinely have no idea how I made it through this season alive. It was super tough to fulfill basic needs and take care of various projects.
Pride month (June) tends to be a busy time of year for queer, outspoken community builders. I had opportunities to speak on quite a few panels about the importance of building alongside queer folks in tech.
On top of attending these panels, Paff from Take Up Space helped me co-host the first onchain telethon with Juicebox to highlight queer builders, including musicians, artists, marketers, and founders who helped pull off a 12-hour Twitter Space. You can read more about it in this Mirror article.
Unfortunately, this was the time of the year when isolation really hit hard. This contributed to the blurriness of each day. More accurately, each month felt like a year. Time stretched on and on.
Cloud Scouts was accepted into Gitcoin Grant round 18 in late August, earning nearly $400 due to the magic of quadratic funding. Thank you to all who donated!
⭐️ On grants & retroactive funding: I’m thinking of a way to help grantees and grant seekers market or find opportunities in Q1. The grant landscape has many problems to solve in 2024…
I began diving into philosophy. Unable to attend all the fun events happening, I found a retreat in knowledge. These months taught me:
The value of taking breaks to avoid total exhaustion
Introspection and the importance of self-examination
Starting a meditation routine is key for any semblance of sanity as a community leader and writer
Creativity flows with a clear, well-rested mind
Favorite YouTube channels: Eternalised, Then & Now, Philosophy Tube (long-time viewer of Abigail)
Considering the topics of newsletters this Fall, it’s clear that it was an introspection-heavy season. This is when I started thinking more deeply about the intersection of digital/AI and human-centered values of community and identity.
Putting less pressure on myself, less value to comparing myself to other builders with more to spend on activations or dev efforts, instead digging into my own happiness.
Cloud Scouts got accepted into the Newforum Identity Hackathon in September, kicking off my first-ever hackathon attendance. I learned SO much by being part of this virtual event. Here are just a few things this hackathon taught me:
What to do & not to do when running a hackathon, if I were to ever host one
Again, the value of figuring things out— I learned more about Figma and deck development via Keynote
Procrastination is a terrible beast
A hackathon is a great time to refine your pitch. Even if you’re not pitching to VCs, they aren’t the only ones who need to hear your message!
This was when we started collecting Disco Bookmarks in this newsletter, an introduction to exploring how verifiable credentials can be used to claim proof of adventure in web3. Disco has been the pinnacle of partnership through listening to feedback and building new features. In the past few weeks, they have made it way easier to set up your data backpack in just a couple of clicks, so long as you have an ETH wallet.
I also started writing for Mailchain this Fall due to being more active in the Boys Club Discord. Interviewing community builders has taught me how to become an even better reporter and creative writer at the same time. My most recent interview with Adrienne from Farcaster is live.
If you’re still here after reading all that, you’re a real champ…truly.
Anyway, since diving deeper into philosophy this year, I ended up learning more about ancient esoteric and mystical teachings. What a strange time. In coming issues, it will be fun to get into how the interconnected nature of ancient traditions continues to affect how we care for one another today.
This is the first year I’ve gone without a full-time job which is a major adjustment and a huge bet on myself with each passing day. Honestly, I’m proud of anyone who made it through the year. It hasn’t been easy, that’s for sure.
I look forward to what comes next in 2024, which will undoubtedly be way more wild than this year has been.
I’d love to hear how your year has been! Let me know in a reply 😊
Hunting & Gathering 🔗
Here are some things I found through the week
The Creative Act by Rick Rubin & Thusness by Alan Watts audiobooks on Spotify