Where are the weirdos hanging out?

Way back in 1993 as a teenager, I would go to the bookstore any chance I got to see what new book I could buy that would help me learn to program. I can still faintly remember seeing this weird magazine on the rack that delved into nerd culture.

Wired is ironically fairly tired today, but back in 1993 it felt like you were tapping into something completely novel. This turned out to be issue 3, back when they could only afford to publish every other month.

The thing that enraptured me was reading about MUDs. I was familiar with Bulletin Board Systems, but had never heard of the Internet. After reading about MUDs where you could be in a text based virtual world at the same time 40 other people were, I had to find out how to get online. Later that fall when my brother started college and got access, this was the first thing I tried to do. I remember spending countless hours MUD’ing the next year.

What didn’t catch my eye in that issue of Wired is their first write up of this new thing called the World Wide Web.

The write up doesn’t predict anything that grand, and says, “Today, W3 provides an eclectic collection of information including a database of poetry, documents from Project Gutenberg, computer algorithms from MIT, weather information, library catalogs, and a biochemical database.” Instead the ambitious predictions from that issues cover story were 500 channels we’d get from our cable provider.

I maybe should have paid more attention to the web than MUDs that year, but I caught on soon enough. What really strikes me reminiscing is how weird it was to be hooked on the Internet at that point. I don’t think I’ve come across anything in life that has ever felt such much energy and potential.

I’ve been asking friends lately, “Where do you notice weirdos right now?” It’s my way of trying to find the next thing with as much potential. Scenes that have captured so much attention that it rallies a clique around it. Answers so far range from nootropics to 30 year olds figuring out how to get frugal, and retire early. Maybe they’re tapping into early human computer brain interaction, or what it might be like to live in a post scarcity world.

Have you found a pocket of experience that seems weird, but might be big someday? What aspect of your life do you feel like you’re living in the future with?

What to do with competitors?

This week we’re trying something new: featuring a single post from a founder and VC. Each ultimately end up touching on how to handle competitors while drawing different conclusions. After reading both, you’ll probably arrive at your own more nuance answer.

Hiten Shah of FYI starts out with the bromide we often hear and too often forget, ‘Go talk to your customers lest you build something they don’t need.’ After fixing that, KISSMetrics exploded in growth, but ultimately ended up slowly losing. Shah tells the story of what went wrong after achieving product market fit in My Billion Dollar Mistake.

Sammy Abdullah of Blossom Street Ventures writes Stop worrying about your competitors, but goes on to elucidate some novel reasons why this is so misdirected. His piece is an excellent companion to Hiten’s post.