An experiment in “open presence”

Posted on August 29, 2017. Filed under: Uncategorized |

I’ve always enjoyed experimenting with communication channels and public access. Whether it’s writing this blog, or tweeting, or video blogging, or printing my email address on a hooded sweatshirt…i have always tried to be as open as possible to strangers and I love the feeling of making the world smaller by putting ideas out into the world and receiving ideas and thoughts and interactions back in response. There is just such a tremendous feeling of opportunity in the idea that 7 billion people are out there, and at anytime, any one of them could find you, reach you, and change the arc of your life…or simply entertain you, or bore you, or teach you, or whatever…I have always felt that some of my deepest relationships and interactions are with people I barely know. My wife once asked me to invite new people over for dinner in an effort to expand our friend group, and my first thought was to ask my barista Carl…who i share no context with whatsoever except simply that the universe, by sheer geography, happened to make him my caffeine dealer. Some of my closest professional relationships today are with strangers i got to know on twitter or in the comments section of my blog when comments on a blog were still a thing. I am always interested in lowering the friction to find and explore these connections. I was ideologically obsessed with the randomness and seamless access of chatroulette, and I was so hopeful and excited about the branding and positioning of Airtime version one. My friend Andy Weissman loves the idea of increasing your chances of serendipity, and I think I subscribe to that in some ways as well.

So a few weeks ago, I watched a community call for a blockchain project called Livepeer. They used a tool called which is basically an open video room where anyone can show up and participate in a multiperson skype-like video experience. No invites, no dial ins…just hit the link and your dropped into video chat. It kind of has a Houseparty vibe i guess…but I loved the idea that you can just publish this link, no app required, and have an open video line to the randomness and opportunity of the other 7 billion people who might happen to find you. I remembed hearing my friend Tim talk about how he endured his long distance relationship by keeping an always on, always open skype video chat going with his girlfriend in Boston. It would just be running, they would live their lives, and be able to look over at any moment and say “hey babe” even if they weren’t intentionally talking…it was a sort of shared presence that was running in the background of their day to day that kept them connected even when there was no intention behind their communication.

I thought it would be fun to apply that type of presence to my work day through the tool I mentioned, so I claimed this room: and put a link to it in my Twitter bio. I was curious who of my twitter friends would stop in to say hi, what strangers would want to talk about, and I loved the idea of putting faces to the many twitter strangers i’ve interacted with over the years…I just open the room when I sit down to my desk…it’s an open line…anyone can come in and say hi…and if i’m focussed on something or can’t talk…i just leave it on mute… Obviously you might be thinking that this architecture for access is quite flawed. I had the same thoughts. How would I handle permissions for entry, and what if I am overwhelmed with interruptions…turns out the real problem is people don’t tend to visit, or when they do I’m away from my desk…etc. Something about this experiment that I thought would lower the friction to communicate seems to actually increase it…maybe people don’t know what to say, maybe face to face in live video is scarier than the cold emails and reach outs that are the norm when you publish your email address on your blog…I am a little surprised that this experiment didn’t lead to more interesting outcomes…to more serendipity…but it obviously needs tweaking…I haven’t decided what levers to pull…but i’m thinking more focussed topics and time windows might be fun. For now, i’m gonna leave the link live because why not, but I think there’s a more interesting product and user experience to be designed that could harness this “open presence” and would love to try out other products that have attempted to address this use case. if you’ve found something fun…OR if it’s not too scary, tell me about it here: during normal work hours, or just tell me about something else you’re working on, or ask me a question about the blockchain or cryptocurrencies or venture capital, or say hi even if I had coffee with you last week and we are friends…my office is kind of empty last week in August…participate in my experiment 🙂

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    I’m a NYC based investor and entrepreneur. I've started a few companies and a venture capital firm. You can email me at (p.s. i don’t use spell check…deal with it)


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