3 min read

Tying off loose ends

And opening up new explorations
A stained glass window of the fuse burning down on a stick of dynamite, Stable Diffusion

Hey everyone - if you missed it, I shared my guide on experience mapping a couple weeks ago. There’s a new Pokemon Travelogue in the works, and I’m working on the next installment in the education thought experiment. For this week, I’ve got the end of one project to share with you and a few thoughts related to labor & ownership.

Wrapping up Countertop Chaos

Just for kicks, I spent the past few months making some short videos making coffee while talking about what I’ve learned about creativity & collaboration. This was the final episode.

From the beginning, I knew exactly which roasters I wanted to use and had a few topics in mind, but the project really evolved as it went along and gave me a regular opportunity for creative exploration.

I had originally planned it to be 7 episodes, but it ended up at 9 including the epilogue. You can find all of them here.

You know that thing about “What’s Your Roman Empire?” - well, in addition to the actual Roman Empire, one of mine is thinking about different ownership arrangements & financing structures for private enterprise. Increasingly, I find myself drawn to the approaches that couple labor & ownership as much as possible. Related to my obsession with coffee, a couple interesting developments:

  • The Starbucks unionization drive has received its fair share of press, but to me the drive toward worker owner cooperatives in the speciality coffee industry is even more interesting. While I don’t have anything more than anecdotal data to back this up, I also have a feeling that smaller enterprises with localized ownership is probably better for the whole coffee value chain - starting with the farmers & growers.
  • In a slightly different branch of the same tree, Cxffeeblack in Memphis is raising investment through a community-funded investment vehicle. Instead of seeking big institutional investment from something like venture capital or private equity, they’re building a collection of small retail investors who support their vision. There are a few other speciality coffee companies on the same platform, but I’m highlighting them for the simple reason that I think Cxffeeblack is incredible. I was in Memphis last summer, and Cxffeeblack might be my favorite thing about the city - the coffee was incredible, but their team was so passionate and kind. They’ve invested a lot of energy into being a community institution, so this route makes a lot of sense for them. Not investment advice, but I’m going to back them.
  • On the one hand, this. On the other hand, this. There’s probably a whole newsletter for those two articles, but I mostly just want to make two simple points: Gains in efficiency are not necessarily benefits to labor (maybe not generally benefits to labor); and part of the reason that I think it is increasingly important for labor to have some amount of ownership is because it’s the most effective check against labor exploitation.
  • Related, though less directly about AI. I think there may be a backlash coming against the idea of free services, free content, etc. In part because it’s becoming so much easier to inundate the world with low to mid quality content (see the top of this newsletter where I made over an hour of stuff that I released into the world) that people will pay for quality. In part because if there’s not a sustainable way for people to live off of what they’re creating, they will eventually just stop. We are simultaneously headed toward a world where it’s easier than ever to create cheap commodity grade art, and a world where it’s easier than ever for diverse voices to create something unique and share it widely (or, maybe better, create it and share it narrowly!).