a Zoom call on hallucinogens, where the callers co-create their background world in real-time.
so…what are we talking about Here?
If you have 5 minutes and $0, you can build a linked set of digital rooms to inhabit online – a metaverse.
The platform, Here, is flexible and fun to use.
There are as many use cases for a metaverse as there are ways of interacting in the real world:
- visual storytelling / tabletop RPG
- hangouts and dates
- meetup / trade show/ conference / event space
- practice space
- collaboration space
- art show
- government service delivery and public consultation window
- medical, legal, professional services appointment and meeting space
If you read through this post and decide you don’t want to make your own, feel free to haunt the OG Metaverse and join its race to population 002.
disclaimer: though I’ve chatted with the founders of Here.fm through their public discord, I’m not affiliated with them and they’ve not sponsored this post. I’m just a fan of the software.
the secret of the ooze
who would be born must first destroy a worldHermann Hesse, Demian
This quote forms one of my core mental models. I regularly bend and abuse it to remind myself that:
- I build my path to self-realization as I follow it, one step at a time
- I am my interpretation of the world
- the purpose of a tool is in how it’s used
- utility is in the eye of the beholder
This is all to say that you can and should use your life to create whatever the fuck you want. The universe formed from a bunch of hot quarks. Earth formed from a mass of debris floating around the sun. Life evolved from the primordial ooze.
Now I’m hardly pushing the formula for life here. Instead, think of this post as a set of preliminary rules that can guide the emergence of your own digital world. You choose the reasons and you formalize the rules.
Here are some stock reasons why you might create a metaverse in here.fm:
- because the internet is cool and this implementation costs no dollars
- because the other work from home apps I’ve seen are boring and prescriptive
- because COVID-19-induced anxiety has trapped you behind two walls – one of the home, another of the mind
- because you want to video chat and play chess over a backdrop of the LA viaduct with T-1000 bearing down on you
- because you want a digital space to load with your ideas, a place to watch things and share screens with friends, a way to find something new that’s also connected to your known world
TO THE METAVERSE! in 6 steps
2. add some objects: image, GIF, Google Doc, text box, chat window, game, screen-share, etc.
3. create and populate a second room
for all your weird personal things
4. create warps between the rooms
(from the three dot menu)
5. click the warps to move between rooms
6. invite your friends to make their own rooms, and keep adding warps to build out the metaverse
That’s it! Super simple, eh?
Just remember to be kind to each other in there. It may be virtual, but it’s also real.
evolution of the website
Many of us want a virtual home, and websites are the traditional build. They’re ubiquitous, obvious, like one-bedroom apartments. Problem is they’re primarily one-way communication tools with an imposed hierarchy of pages and posts. No one’s coming to stay.
Digital gardens address some of these structural limitations by facilitating serendipity through conceptual links – related ideas are tied to each other and can grow together: a sort of symbiosis. Visitors get the value-add of finding ideas beyond their original search, and they get a sense of who you are as a person. Yet most digital gardens are still variations of the standard website. They’re generally unable to engage a visitor in dialogue beyond soliciting a comment, like, or share.
A metaverse brings others directly into your world, and you into theirs. Each creator structures their world to reflect their whims and twisted thought processes. In a metaverse you can make a true digital twin, an extended mind, an evolution of your physical being. These are digital spaces that feed on data, so you can give them your mind – or at least aspects of it – in whatever form you like.
One of the most interesting evolutionary steps evidenced in the metaverse is that someone can enter into or be in my awareness and I don’t need to interact with them. It’s like we’re working at the kitchen table, on our own things, but we’re both there supporting each other. When I want to make a joke, I do it. When you want to leave to grab a snack, you do it.
Which leads to:
working in public
don’t wait for Google
I’ve posted about working in public on LinkedIn and will likely write more on it later. I’m not sure what I find so interesting about working in public, but it likely stems from my desire to connect and build out ideas with others. Twitter is as close as I currently get to virtual collaboration.
Working in public is a way to advance draft work, an acknowledgement that most work is in a constant state of change anyway, as the world grows around it. If you consider ideas as prototypes, early and regular feedback can help mold and situate them in the present or future (desirable) rather than see them fall to the past-heap.
A metaverse built in Here.fm is designed to support collaboration, whether that’s playing a game, discussing a document, or dialoguing a co-authored report.
In some ways it offers better real-time partnering than physical situations. When you share your screen with me in the metaverse, we’re both immersed in it. I don’t have to leer over your shoulder to see what you’re working on. I can see your expressions and hear your voice, but with a satisfying kind of distance. And if I scroll and move my chat head away, I can have other conversations, and you won’t hear unless you follow me.
Brian Eno wrote and recorded the album “Ambient 1: Music for Airports” by overlapping many sound loops of differing length, and the product is an ever-evolving, generative music. Its value is derived from the way the sounds combine and shift over time, from the whole that the parts evoke, not from the isolated sounds themselves.
John Gall apparently said, “A complex system that works is invariably found to have evolved from a simple system that worked.” 
My knowledge plus your knowledge might equal something new, so long as we can effect the transfer.
More on emergence elsewhere (elsewhen?), as I’ve been interested lately. My self-directed recurring question is:
“how can I set up a simple system, using basic rules, that has the autonomy to evolve under the safety and flexibility of its original design?”
The metaverse is a partial answer.