Anon-first world

Posted on April 19, 2022. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Adjusting to anon-culture on the internet has taken me some time. After building up a real public ID over the past 13 or so years, I’ve become attached to it. I was anonymous on AOL chat in the late 90’s, real id on closed networks like Facebook in 2004, and then Twitter brought my real ID to the open internet in 2007. Since then, I’ve been @jordancooper on pretty much every public platform I try. My blog is real id, real email addy visible…for better or for worse I am the same person online and offline. I acknowledge that my privilege is an input to this truth. When I bought my .eth domain i chose jordancooper.eth. When i joined discord I was @jordancooper+some random number…and that all seemed to make sense to me until it didn’t. Over the past few years, I’ve joined many discord channels, where the vast majority of participants are anon, and honestly…@jordancooper+some random number started to feel a little outsider-ish. There was no real cost to me doxxing myself. I stand by everything I say on Discord and I’m not sensitive about my real id, but culturally I couldn’t help but feel like I was doing it wrong…With jordancooper.eth the pain of doxxing myself became a little more acute. Here the cost wasn’t really cultural, as it’s quite common to append a legacy social id like your twitter account to your .eth domain, etc…but rather there was a hint of security concern. There isn’t a lot of economic value held at jordancooper.eth’s associated public addy, but it’s not nothing…in a world of social engineering and spear fishing and such, all of the sudden I kind of wish I was exploring the Web 3 ecosystem without putting a target on my real back.

But as I talk to more people who choose to navigate web 3 anon-first, it’s clear that neither of these costs is at the heart of the choice. Yes, the security stuff is real to people, but it’s deeper than that. There’s an intimacy in real id that a growing number of people expect to exist with intentionality. There’s meaning in a relationship progressing from anon to real id, and the moment one doxxes herself to another or a community is an exercise in trust. Doing so forms or strengthens a bond…anon first actors become active curators of their real id inner circle. There’s safety in that discipline, but also social gesture.

I don’t think I’ll ever be anon-first…the cat’s already out of my bag, but I do find myself committing to understand this decision as a first class citizen and approach it with the requisite empathy. An investor asked me the other day if Pace would invest in someone who’s real identity we didn’t know. Such a hard question. My instinct is no, but I’d be very happy to jump through any and all hoops necessary to authentically establish trust with an anonymous founder. I’d readily commit to keeping her real identity secret. I’d earn the intimacy which I am requesting, but my “real life” is too integrated into my work life to approximate trust in my working relationships (and there’s the whole fiduciary responsibility thing…which is real).

Something I’ve come to realize about myself, is that I value consistency in people across contexts. The most authentic people, to me, are the ones who show up to their work life, their home life, their leisure life, their online life, etc…as the “same person.” Chris Poole, who founded early anonymous forum 4chan, and who was first introduced to me as moot, once explained to me that identity is prismatic, and that we all deserve to be different people in different places. At an ideological level I agree. At a personal level, I still try to surround myself with those that show up consistently, regardless of context. Maybe I need to revisit that preference…but I literally don’t know how to trust someone who isn’t “themselves” everywhere. I guess that’s ok in systems that are designed to be trustless (i.e. Dapps, crypto protocols, etc…), and i’m more than happy to transact/communicate/collaborate/create/enjoy trustlessly…but in a world where you are the aggregate of the people with whom you spend most of your time, my close relationships are no such system….

On a more applied note: I think there’s tremendous value to be built in acknowledging the spectrum of anonymity to real identity as a progression. Building professional and social systems and applications that treat it as such feels important. If you are working with these dynamics in mind, I’d love to speak:

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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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