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The Curse of the Metaverse

 

In the hours between when the “60 Minutes” segment aired featuring Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen and the start of when Facebook’s all-day outage drummed up constant snark and speculation, I couldn’t sleep.

Maybe there was too much on my mind at 4:30am.

Maybe it was the change of seasons throwing me off, as I can’t get the temperature in my room just right yet. Do you use the heavy blanket with the window open? What’s the protocol?

Or maybe it was going wild downing two pints of Franziskaner at Ulysses downtown on Stone Street, one of those almost-hidden alleyways where you can feel like a Manhattan local and tourist all at once.

I think it was the beer.

But when I woke up a few hours after crashing, incoherently mumbling something about a conversation I was having with the friend I met downtown, I couldn’t stop thinking about Facebook. And the metaverse. And a half-decent book with a mediocre sequel that I couldn’t get out of my head. And regret. There were lots of thoughts about regret.

It felt rather French. Even if it was triggered by Munich beer.

Well, I did what any perfectly normal person would do when waking up like that:

I wrote down all those thoughts as a Gmail draft and figured I’d share it as a tweetstorm in the morning.

What I didn’t expect is that Facebook would temporarily shut down, adding another aura of mystery to the day.

What follows is a more polished version of the tweetstorm, edited for clarity and to reflect a few thoughts that didn’t make it in.

The storm commences thus:

In light of everything going on with Facebook, I can’t help but wonder about how much of this is fact and fiction blurring thanks in large part to the similarities between Facebook and the world described in Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One.

Recall that Ready Player One has been required reading at Oculus (owned by Facebook) since 2016. And whenever Zuckerberg wants to distract people from everything at Facebook now, he keeps talking about the Metaverse — which is where most of RP1 takes place.

Ready Player Two, the sequel, is mostly a slog — even more laborious 80s pop culture references. The quest scenes feel like they go on for longer than those Facts of Life + Diff’rent Strokes crossover episodes. But the heart of the book includes some ethical questions that seem far too nuanced for Facebook’s team to care about.

One is a classic literary and cinematic trope: once you fight the power and become the power, how do you use it responsibly? This is like 50% of fiction? 90%? Whatever. It’s at the core of Ready Player 2 though. And it’s a gray area throughout the book. No right answers.

Even more pertinent today is that Ready Player 2 adds a twist (this is, at worst, a very minor spoiler) in that there’s a secret delete button that only the hero-turned-CEO Parzival has access to. The whole book is a question on whether he does or he doesn’t use it (I will not spoil that part, as the dilemma might be a cliché, but it’s one of the best clichés in the book).

Throughout RP1 and RP2, one dilemma is whether the rulers of the Oasis metaverse should make the metaverse as engaging as possible or if they should improve the real world instead, which is crumbling all around them.

Doesn’t that sound like the whistleblower’s lament? Facebook pursued increasing engagement at any cost. It’s Greek tragedy dressed in a hoodie and sneakers.

Zuckerberg seems to have no concern at all about the real-world effects of his behavior. There’s no concern for whether rioters storm the Capitol or whether millions of people don’t get vaccinated because of what they access on Facebook. Not his problem.

This is where Zuckerberg comes off as sociopathic. I’ll leave it to psychologists to diagnose that. But the real world not mattering while he migrates his platform from a social network to a metaverse is a fundamental flaw in everything Facebook is designing. There’s no empathy or accountability.

In the literary version of the Zuckerberg story, what everyone would wonder at the end of a book, even if there are sequels coming, is, “Does the hero have regret?” Ready Player‘s Parzival (shocker, but not a spoiler) has tons. There’s lots of second-guessing. The stretch where Parzival lacks empathy is when the reader’s not sure if he’s the hero or villain. Zuckerberg seems to miss that trope. It doesn’t matter to him.

There are lots of meaningful ways to debate whether the world is better thanks to Facebook or worse for it. Clearly, billions of us (myself included) use its products and give them a pass on A LOT (yup, that’s me too). But for users like me, there’s a lot of concern and fear.

There are two kinds of regret: regretting actions you took, and regretting opportunities you didn’t seize.

I regret not studying abroad in college, but that didn’t hurt anyone. It only hurt me. And the women of Paris who didn’t get to meet me. (Spoiler alert: they don’t regret it.)

I regret lots of things I’ve done too that hurt others or that didn’t help others enough. That’s for another column, or therapy, or Yom Kippur.

With the Facebook ethos, it seems like the only kind of regret is not going fast enough, not breaking enough things, not going from a metaverse to a multimetaverse. And if they just read Ready Player 1 & 2 more carefully, it’s all in there.

I’m not sure where this leaves us. If there’s any moral of RP1 and RP2 though, it’s that you can’t just build a new digital world; you have to work on fixing the real one too, or it means nothing. Zuck, it’s all there. Read your bible a little more closely.

(This final entry in the storm was retweeted by Second Life founder and metaverse legend Phiip Rosedale, who said, “I could not agree more.” Yes, you can smell the sweat of fanboy glee that far away.)

What I couldn’t fit in with that thread was another thought that came up, thanks in part to drinking so heavily (two whole pints) with a fellow single parent: when you have offspring, it’s especially hard to have regrets.

More importantly, when you create something meaningful, it’s hard to have regrets. That could be finding your true calling. It could be building a company, writing a book, or composing a symphony. It could be the love you devote to your parents or grandparents or nieces or nephews. It could be a manifestation of your religion. If you can’t imagine what the world would be like without it, and you know the world is a better place for it, then it’s hard to regret whatever got you there.

Yet most of us can’t get there without making mistakes that short-change ourselves and others. And most of us who created something undeniably positive and beautiful had to get through all kinds of ugly to get there.

However we got to this point, there is so much that the vast majority of us would choose to never do again and would do everything in our power to prevent or resolve.

Zuckerberg has that power. But if you have no regrets, you can’t use your power effectively. You can only move fast and break things. Even things that are already broken.

***

If you’re tired of the metaverse, come join some of us at First Wednesday tonight in Manhattan’s Madison Square Park right by Shake Shack. RSVP on Meetup, or just show up between 5 and 7. We can talk about all of this in person, and if it’s too deep for you, you can talk to my daughter about BTS and Pokemon; she also baked cookies for everyone.

If you can’t make that but also have trouble sleeping, email me what’s on your mind. I may be up and around to respond.

If you’re a billionaire reading this, let’s talk about how to fix the world we’re in rather than blasting off into space or creating a virtual universe.

If you’re game, the Franziskaner’s on you. And I might go for a third pint.

David

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PROPELIFY INNOVATION FESTIVAL
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https://propelify.com/2021-festival-agenda/

AUDIO INNOVATION FORUM
October 6, 12pm
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October 6, 5pm
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Get the recognition you deserve with our friends at BOLD Awards! 20 Categories, 20 Judges, submissions from 50+ countries, and counting! BOLD Awards is looking for the BOLDest companies and individuals powering breakthroughs in digital industries – from mobility, cybersecurity, AI, agritech & more.”
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STRATEGIC MARKETING 2021 VIRTUAL EVENT
October 12-14
“Reuters Events: Strategic Marketing 2021 brings together the world’s most influential CMOs and marketing leaders to discuss the impact of brands on society, leverage new digital touchpoints, and unleash the opportunities that come with this shift in consumer-brand relationships.”
https://reutersevents.com/events/marketing/

COIN NATIONS – VIRTUAL GLOBAL SUMMIT 2021
October 13-16
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You will participate in Matchmaking networking and interactive discussions about the latest innovations, opportunities, and challenges surrounding Crypto, Blockchain, CBDCs, DeFi, NFTs, Wallets, Exchanges, and more!”
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START YOUR OWN DESIGN BUSINESS
October 14, 9:30am – 7:00pm
Manhattan, NY and virtual
Via Danielle Hughes in the community
“This is the conference for designers looking to become entrepreneurs, and for design entrepreneurs looking to become better businesspeople. You have studied design at the university level, you understand design principles, and you’ve learned all the design tools the world of tech has to offer. Now you are ready to find financial success!”
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OPTIMIZING YOUR HOLIDAY EMAILS
Last-Minute Tips for Black Friday and Cyber Monday
October 14, 2pm
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“The challenges for marketers this holiday season are formidable: Shoppers are planning to start making their purchases earlier and privacy changes may impact the results you rely on for planning and measurement. Not to mention the perennial challenge of breaking through the messaging deluge to get your customers’ attention during the holiday season. Despite these challenges, there are proven ways to refine and optimize your email strategy to land your message with your ideal customers at the right times and in the right places.”
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AFFILIATE STRATEGIES TO UNLOCK GROWTH IN Q4
October 19, 2pm
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October 20, 1pm
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ASCENT SAAS: SPOTLIGHT ON STARTUPS
November 17
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ASCENT SAAS: SPOTLIGHT ON MARKETING
January 19
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JOBS
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Keep checking out the #jobs channel in Serial Marketers for more. Better yet, subscribe to get updates from our job listing board. Here are some great opportunities shared in these places or sent to me directly.

RETHINK PRIORITIES
Communications Coordinator
Remote Americas, Africa, or Europe
Apply by Sunday, October 24
“As our Communications Coordinator, you will be leading Rethink Priorities’ strategic communications. The main way we as an organization have impact is by improving the effectiveness of other individuals and organizations. Through your work, you will enhance the overall impact of the effective altruism movement by making our findings accessible to key decision-makers in the different cause areas we work in a very actionable way.”
https://rethinkpriorities.applytojob.com/apply/oSgp75jDSI/Communications-Coordinator

INSIDER INTELLIGENCE
Various roles
United States
Via Jeremy Goldman in the community:
“I’m hiring a writer/analyst and editor to lead Insider Intelligence’s leading marketing & advertising briefing and my colleague is hiring for a senior writer covering retail & eCommerce.”

WITHIN
Lifecycle Marketing Account Manager
NY, Remote OK
“The WITHIN team is growing and we’re looking for a passionate, motivated Lifecycle Account Manager who is willing to take the lead across multiple retention channels such as email, sms, push, app, and more. This is a unique opportunity in a rapidly expanding company.”
https://apply.workable.com/within-1/j/252C55F6B2/

TUNEIN
Multiple roles
Remote in SF, LA or NY
Via Mark Verone in the community:
“We are looking for a Campaign Manager and Senior Product Designers to join our TuneIn Ad Ops team. Come join TuneIn as we’re in reinventing radio for a connected world!”

USHUR
Marketing Operations Manager
Remote US
#AI #nocode #customerengagement
“Ushur is looking for an experienced, data-driven Manager, Marketing Operations to manage all operational and automation initiatives on the Marketing & Sales team. The individual in this role will be reporting to the Senior Manager, Marketing Operations and Sales Development, to help lead the administration and management of all marketing tech stack integrations, lead routing, field mapping, and optimizations of functionalities.”
http://www.candidate.co/refer/90c665b5-e77d-47c0-ab2d-f8416638ee50/388

LIFE LEARNING ACADEMY
Development and Communications Coordinator
Treasure Island, San Francisco
Via Kevin Chuang in the community
“The Development and Communications Coordinator facilitates and coordinates Life Learning Academy’s fundraising processes and activities. This person primarily works behind the scenes to support the organization’s donor database, communications, and events.”
https://lifelearningacademysf.org/careers/

POPSQL
Head of Marketing
Remote US
#datavisualization
“We’re looking for our first marketing hire, a Head of Marketing that will create and lead this function. This is a high-impact leadership role where you will report directly to the CEO and own PopSQL’s holistic marketing initiatives and growth targets. A proven track record of marketing results within SaaS is highly desirable.”
www.candidate.co/refer/90c665b5-e77d-47c0-ab2d-f8416638ee50/377

CRACKERJACK MARKETING
Digital Marketing Manager
US West Coast based or available to work in Pacific Time
Via Stephanie Schwab in the community
“Our Digital Marketing Managers are the liaisons between the agency and our clients. You are the primary point of contact, handling all day-to-day client interactions, as well as managing the team and projects needed to foster client success. This role is fast paced and requires a confident and intelligent individual who is an excellent communicator and has strong knowledge of digital marketing.”
https://www.linkedin.com/jobs/view/2728108962/

AGORA SYSTEMS
Account Executive
Remote US
“The ideal candidate will possess strong sales, interpersonal and organizational skills. They should be comfortable with multitasking and be able to budget their resources in order to meet the assigned quotas for their role.
Responsibilities include:
* Full-cycle sales (cold outbound, set appointments, hold meetings, and close)
* Achieve sales objectives
* Attract high-quality customers and set proper expectations
* Follow sales ops processes
* Act as a brand ambassador
www.candidate.co/refer/90c665b5-e77d-47c0-ab2d-f8416638ee50/374

MBS HIGHWAY
Director of Marketing
“Entrepreneurial, leads with integrity and confidence, the future Director of Marketing has:
* 6+ years experience in performance marketing touching SEO, paid search, paid social, display, product orientation, programmatic
* B2B SMB / Mid Market SaaS strongly preferred, open to high growth B2C internet orgs
* Strategic Executor – 2+ years of people management experience overseeing SEO and paid media teams, can hire, lead, and manage individual contributors to be more cohesive
* Ability to own critical top of funnel metrics (strongly focused on traffic and lead volume) and strategize with the team on how to execute”
https://app.huntclub.com/jobs/2255?share_token=PcodCfyyr1Yz93evqQdoZGYw

UPLEVEL
Marketing Campaign Manager
Remote US (Pacific, Mountain, or Central time zone)
#engineerproductivity
“We’re hiring for a marketing campaign manager who wants to join as the second marketing hire on our quickly growing team. You will be hyper-focused on generating demand for our sales team (bringing in qualified leads) by leading account-based marketing efforts and supporting integrated marketing campaigns. Were a small, but mighty team. You’ll be tasked with testing and identifying the most effective and efficient channels to drive demand and doubling down efforts where it matters.”
http://www.candidate.co/refer/90c665b5-e77d-47c0-ab2d-f8416638ee50/391

VERY GREAT
Vice President of Growth
NY or Remote US
#launchplatform #consumerbrands
“The future Vice President of Growth has:
* Marketing leader with 10+ years of experience and proven success scaling a DTC CPG brand(s) by multiple channels. Experience hiring, building, and developing a team of marketers/data analysts
* E-commerce, DTC + omnichannel experience within consumer goods, food/beverage, beauty, and/or retail
* Ability to own high-level strategy for all existing performance marketing channels including Google ecosystem, Paid Social, Content Marketing, Influencers, SEO + ability to implement new channels”
https://app.huntclub.com/jobs/2352?share_token=PcodCfyyr1Yz93evqQdoZGYw

CANDIDATE
Marketing Director
Remote US within the Pacific time zone
“The Marketing Director will be responsible for creating and executing a comprehensive, multi-channel marketing plan to accelerate the growth of Candidate. This role will be a pivotal leadership role at the organization and require you to dig in at both the strategic and tactical levels. You will have management responsibilities across a variety of marketing efforts including brand positioning and awareness, product marketing, paid media, email marketing, website, social media, PR, and sales enablement.”
www.candidate.co/refer/90c665b5-e77d-47c0-ab2d-f8416638ee50/361

SAKARA
Director of Growth Marketing
New York, NY
Via Chris Gorges in the community
“We are seeking a Director of Growth Marketing to lead our acquisition strategy across online and offline growth channels. This role will be responsible for allocating and deploying a large media budget and managing a growth marketing team that plans, executes, and analyzes acquisition tactics that drive sustainable and efficient CAC at scale.”
https://sakaralife.applytojob.com/apply/uM6WJ7D4Oi/Director-Of-Growth-Marketing

Find more jobs on the Serial Marketers job board.

Other job resources:

  • Advisable: Get instant access to top marketing freelancers
  • AMA Job Board: Listings from the American Marketing Association (maybe you can also ask them anything)
  • Beeler.Tech: Job listings for ad operations, programmatic account management, sales operations, and more.
  • Braintrust: A new freelance platform where you are the owner and where freelance talent keeps 100% of the bill rate.
  • Built in NYC: Jobs at a range of levels and functions, as long as you’re okay working in this quaint, backwater hamlet.
  • CareerList: Here’s a form for companies hiring and a form for job seekershere’s the public list with tabs for both
  • Content Writing Jobs: Content marketers, enjoy
  • Creative Women of Color: List yourself in the database and find talent, via Women Who Create
  • Demand Curve: Growth and marketing jobs
  • DiscoverTheTalent: An initiative designed to build partnerships with businesses to advocate, train, and hire military spouses
  • ExecThread: Senior roles spanning a range of verticals and cities; membership is free but fully vetted (this uses my referral ID to get you in faster)
  • Ex-Equinox Media Talent: A spreadsheet of available talent (permission given by those listed) who are recent ex-Equinox media folks.
  • Gently Ventures: Helps scale businesses by finding the right talent
  • GLG: Get paid to share your topical expertise; it can lead to some interesting conversations at a potentially decent hourly rate
  • Growth Collective: Apply to join this network of notable freelance marketers
  • Grace Blue Transitions: A portal for hirers and seekers with resources from this exec recruiting firm
  • The Hired Guns: An array of jobs in marketing and related fields at brands, agencies, and media companies
  • Hue: Amplifying voices of people in color working in marketing
  • Hunterz: A way for connectors to get paid to introduce startups to large enterprises
  • Lead5: A paid service for executive roles, plus intel on changes with companies and PE investments; you can try a risk-free weeklong trial to see if it’s any good for your needs
  • Lunch Club: Match 1:1 around predetermined goals with accomplished professionals (free)
  • NYC Ad Jobs & Networking: A popular Facebook group
  • One Club for Creativity: COVID-19 jobs Board
  • #OpenToWork: There’s a channel in Serial Marketers where you can share what you’re looking for
  • Pangea: Where you can hire college freelancers (and college students can get gigs)
  • Pocit: A platform connecting people of color with jobs in the tech industry
  • Questions to Ask for a Marketing Role: What questions should you ask when starting a new marketing role or job?
  • Remotists: Remote startup jobs, chronicled weekly
  • Sales Hustle Stack: Find platform-based gigs and other creative ways to earn some extra cash
  • Serial Marketers Job Board: Post regular and featured listings and subscribe for updates.
  • Startup.Jobs: There’s a section for marketing jobs
  • Teal: One place to organize and manage your job search.
  • TechNY Daily: While more technical, there are also some sales and marketing jobs at NY startups.
  • VC Job Boards: AlephEniac VenturesPearSequoiaUnion Square Ventures
  • VentureLoop: Free startup job listings; their paid option is $15/month and might surface more leads (but it might not).
  • Venwise: Submit your job interests here and get in front of their roster of hiring leads; select “Serial Marketers” under “How did you find us”
  • Wanted: Wanted helps top talent in tech and marketing find a job at your desired pay.

Do you run or enjoy other job listing sites? Let me know, and I’ll share them.

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