The Derek Black interview via The Daily podcast

This post is not about politics.

It’s about my ethical discomfort that I can’t get beyond since the events in Charlottesville.

About a glimpse through Derek Black‘s story in this interview into the empowered white nationalist, neo-Nazi and white supremicist fringe groups–and my nausea that comes with internalizing the situation.

The story that Michael Barbaro of the New York Times The Daily eases out of Derek Black in this podcast is a critical glimpse into the normalization of white nationalists by the leaders of that movement. That for myself, before Charlottesville, was something marginal and easy to shirk off.

Hearing the story of the first family of white supremacy with candor and nuance, with the emotional complexities he went through as he came to grips with his own upbringing, has elevated my understanding and seriously challenged my superficially-held preconceptions.

I hesitate to say he has humanized this, but listening to the story lets me understand what it was to be raised from birth to embody the sickness of supremacy as nothing less than normal. As the core bond of family and the strings of love that drove respect for his father as a youth.

I understand more now, but my fears and loathing have escalated, not at all been quieted through understanding.

Derek was born into the elite of white nationalists. His father was an ex grand wizard of the KKK and founder of the website Stormfront. His godfather was David Duke.

He knew nothing other than this world and was a child supremicist celebrity to this nether world online through his dad’s website and presenter on the stage of neo-Nazi and white supremacy conventions from the age of 10-12 years old.

This is his story in his own words of leaving the enclave, going to a liberal arts college, realizing over a period of years that his father was wrong, publicly rejecting this creed and being named an outright traitor by his family.

This is him helping me understand that they were not so much emotional haters as sick, self-proclaimed patriots of a racist cause. They are quite smart, articulate and to my mind not simply the scum of the world but underworldly (for lack of a better term).

I was wrong.

Not about how distasteful or horrid they truly are but how much they are the fabric of our country in ways I was ignorant of.

And to finally understand that to this group, Jews like myself, were not ‘white’ in their eyes in the most racist, pejorative connotations that that ugly terminology is made to conjure up in their twisted-as-shit view of things.

And most chilling of all, to hear from Derek that Donald Trump’s words on Charlottesville were the precise talking points of the white supremacists that he was raised on.  That now, they as a group and the adjacent fringes of the neo-Nazis are empowered, encouraged and reenergized in a way unimaginable before.

They are as high today as they were low when Barack Obama was elected.

That Trump has used the pulpit of the presidency to tell this fringe that they are indeed good folks. That they have a right to breed this sick crap and perpetuate it. He is their spokesperson and hero to their thinking.

This story is beyond sobering, yet thought provoking and illuminating in a way that only the spoken word inside your head can truly accomplish.

I’ve shared this podcast with friends and family and now to you, my community here.

I am uncharacteristically inarticulate so I’ll leave this with slight introduction and an invite to give this a listen.

With a thank you to Michael Barbaro from the NY Times for doing such a great job letting Derek talk.

You might also care to read Derek’s op ed piece from 2016 as background, Why I Left White Nationalism  and if you are looking for a truly great movie that addresses these topics, I rewatched American History X.

This is not available on Soundcloud so you can listen at:

The Derek Black Interview in iTunes

The Derek Black Interview in Google Play

The most important ears that hear this are your own.

First thoughts on Nutrigenomics

Nutrigenomics is an idea whose time is starting to be now.

As a research discipline, it’s the science of how our genes and nutrients interact with each other.

How food and supplements can actually turn on and off certain genes depending on our genetic maps, impacting communications cross our bodies internal networks and directly affecting aging, cognition and almost every facet of our health.

I’m not a scientist nor nutritionist, but as I’ve delved into wellness and nutrition, health and exercise over the last decade, it’s become clear that this is the great looming disrupter.

Disrupting common conceptions of aging and disease treatments. Economically disrupting massive industries like the $60B+ supplement segment along with functional foods, wellness and the weight loss worlds.

It is also I think going to change our delivery systems, bringing pure science, just in time manufacturing, and tech delivery, database driven e-commerce and wellness branding together in as yet unknowable ways.

And in the end, disruptive to our culture as a whole as the possibility of a more age diverse workforce is the end result of extended health and cognition for a huge segment of the population.

The pieces of this puzzle are just coming together with massive investment cross every sector, bridging the gaps between the science and the need to build consumer delivery systems and trusted brands.

The stack for the pieces of this market puzzle looks something like this:

Genetic testing–>personalized secure fingerprint storage–>scientific correlations–>manufacturing–>delivery systems–>consumer education and branding

Genetic testing

Built off the platforms pioneered by the dna ancestry companies, the logistics of extracting dna from swab samples is here today. Through the mail today for $200 each, this is going to commoditize quickly.

It is easy to imagine this going to free either through kits, at your drugstore or school or part of testing for each child born.

This is not where the value or the money is. Free testing will be like free shipping is today.

Secure fingerprint storage

Blockchain has huge potential here for all the many privacy concerns but regardless of technology, it is my take that Amazon potentially is the incumbent to best capitalize on this.

As the footprint for the mass market, delivering customized solutions on a schedule through the mail seems like a huge annuity that they are potentially poised to exploit.

The knowledge base

This is the secret sauce. Where  science resides in the correlation engine.

This is where the almanacs of today’s wellness recipes meet the hard-core reality of connecting nutrients to altering the expressions of our genetic makeup.

This will not only be IDing what your makeups is malleable to but the best way for your body to injest the nutrient, be it pills, liposomal liquids, drips or even pens.

How regulation will play to this and the complications of certs and insurance and testing remains to be seen but will be obviously complex and every changing.

Custom manufacturing

The key to nutrigenomics is that much of the lore of wellness and almost almanac knowledge is moved to scientific connections.

For example, the question is not whether a nutrient like Turmeric is good for specific things, but precise correlations between your genetic makeup, how it might impact you and how well you absorb it, are the pieces that nutrigenomics pulls together.

It has been shown that there is a 70% variability of one drug or nutrient’s impact cross a small cross section of the population.

An industry is yet to formed to build customized solutions to genetically similar swatches of the population that can be delivered through platform like Amazon, direct to consumers, and direct to doctors and clinics for more invasive therapies like drip and injections.

Direct to consumer brand

Who will we trust for our solutions? Who are the mass market generations of experts that we will decide to believe in and buy their products?

Is this going to be your physician? Your sports medicine specialist?

Two things are certain here—the massive food brands, be they P & G, the package good conglomerates, or Amazon will be part of it and that they will not be the trusted brand developers in the beginning cycles.

We can see the beginnings of this today with point solutions around aging and vitality. That absorption technologies like liposomes will start to build inroads into the wellness market channels though in actuality we are still early.

The winners will be the brands that hold consumers trust.

On top of this massive pyramid of scientific research, data driven personalized manufacturing, delivery systems sits you and I.

Each of us with personal genetic fingerprint. Each of us with hopes for curative solutions, increased life and functionality, receiving a monthly package in the mail that should make our lives better.

First thoughts

I’m a technologist, brand builder and wellness fanatic, not a scientist.

But this is coming and for all of us, it can’t possibly come fast enough.

Please do share if you are closer to this in any of the areas.


Dealing with trolls

The problem of acerbic and vociferous haters is not going away anytime soon.

Ugly people voicing vicious personal attacks is obviously nothing new.

It’s been a topic since we first started opening up our platforms of communications on corporate blogs. When we knew open communications was the answer to community markets yet had to address the outliers telling us our products sucked and as did our companies.

A year or so ago running up to the election we all lamented the politicizing of just about everything, most seriously language itself. (See posts The new normal is anything but and Humanizing our networks.)

Today is a different reality and most every brand has embraced that their stance on any one of the vast social challenges is part of who they are. Part and parcel to defining themselves to their markets.

True for Vogue, true for Merck, true for Rupert Murdock.

Even companies who may not put their causes first, need to caucus internally and get clear with the teams their core values and how to deal with the haters.

The most conservative companies are addressing at a board level the communications chains to their employees and customers when execs tweets cross their line of what is acceptable to them.

This is a tough one for a variety of obvious reasons, not least of all how to address this in public.

Common knowledge says that the best way to deal with the haters is to ignore them.

The power of ignoring those with a crazed need not to communicate but to vent bile, is what we do. With some exceptions, we have learned to grit our teeth and allow for this on our blogs and in larger community forums.

We do this out of respect for diversity of opinion and acknowledgement that open communications, no matter how painful at time is how it should be.

This is changing, for me.

Maybe it is the grating intersection of our need to step forward on social issues and what appears to be an increase in the viciousness that spouts from the trolls that stumble around communities, spewing venom and ugliness.

Hijacking our threads, like marauding crowds of zombies who hack with their articulation not with sickles and scythes.

I agree wholeheartedly that living in a world that is only a reflection of ourselves is an echo chamber. I agree as well, that policing differences of opinion out of our line of sight is a sure path to only listening to ourselves. And I certainly agree that diversity is key to both community and creative changes in how we think.


I’ve come to the realization that diversity does not include hate. Diversity does not include supremacists. And communications does not include those whose only intent is to disrupt and attack others personally.

There is a line, sometimes fine, sometimes not, between discussions around civil differences of opinion and a street fight.

And I/we need to decide when to draw the line.

I want to give Disqus some credit here for stepping up and helping communities do this. I say this even after being a strong critic of them in the past for not kicking Breitbart and other hate mongers off their platform.

I am applauding them here for creating two tools that are really helpful.

One is the easy ability to clearly post how your own definitions of what is acceptable behavior on your blogs. Making it front and center is an asset as it is your community and you have the right and the responsibility to make your world as you see fit. I’ve been remiss and am posting mine today.

And the other, is the ability to block users.

To be clear, after a decade of building, writing and participating in blog communities there have been only a few times that I’ve erased comments as inappropriate.  On our own blogs this is easy to do.

But community and our markets now exist cross communities, cross the web. You, your brand and your stances follow you around. And the issue of what to do when not on your own properties is a real one.

For the first time, last week I used the block feature which hangs off of this box on the right side of each comment.



It allows you to report and remove users. They become invisible to you. As if they don’t exist—which in effect they don’t.

I struggled with this at first, running through the litany of whether this is right.

No more.

Life is both a wonder and a challenge. Communities are what makes the world and our businesses turn. And to those whose only intent is to disrupt, so be it.

Need to say having these ugly trolls out of site, is just as it should be, a pleasure and an opening for more productive discussions.

Who really needs this shit?

In real life, we surround ourselves with those we want to, where conversations are useful and challenging. We choose to buy or not from companies as we want to as well.

Now online, to some extent, this is possible as well.

As it should be.


These posts by Fred Wilson and Nick Grossman on adjacent topics with quite different opinions are well worth reading.

Internetworking communities on the blockchain

Communities simply happen.

In spite of the limitations of the platforms they are built on and regardless of the hosting mechanics that never quite seem to fit.

In the last decade or so social networks have been what tied our world together and communities what created value and gave the networks their souls. A symbiotic and parasitic relationship that typifies our connected world.

Up to now possibly.

As the social nets have become overtly controlling and commercial, this relationship has become more strained. And the more familiar I become with the dynamics of the communities built on the blockchain the more I see the potential to turn this paradigm sideways.

From hanging out in these coin-based markets, regardless of which coin or  competing platform they are built on, the possibility for a changed community dynamics seems possible.

And any time behavior is capable of being platformed in new ways, change is not only feasible but carries the possibilities of massive cultural transformation along with it.

I don’t pretend to have an answer, not I think does anyone, but in these early market communities there is a different dynamic at play.

Different in how ties are being formed and portending I think a reconfiguring of what marketing could mean in this new reality.

This idea came together for me around the idea of internetworking communities that I head my old friend Bill Thai talking about from one of his events on Necker Island.

The construct is that if rather than the broad social networks that we live on today, where we waste so much time pining for connection, there has been cropping up an alternative built on the blockchain, reshuffling the hierarchy of communities and networks.

Staring with the communities first as deep commercial decentralized connections, wired together establishing network interoperability cross them.

This is slippery to get your head around.

But what you sense is a real migration in place, off of the social nets where we are more and more stymied for expression and more and more harvested for the value of our data for media dollars.

Where the innate friction in this new paradigm—and there is friction of course—is pushed into the background by the pure possibilities of it all.

There are a number of still developing points that I can’t quite place but keep waking up thinking about.

Our core humanity and need for community is not transactional in nature so why the blockchain?

This one is hard to internalize.

Maybe it’s the resilience of community itself. It exists today on the matrix of the social nets so why can’t it exist in a transactional framework like the blockchain?

Community adapts and possibly peer-to -peer and the sense of ownership that it conjures up is more relevant as a platform. Or maybe it’s a good option cause the one we have today are so poor.

The past year has highlighted the limitations of our social nets as a platform for anything other than patter, and show and tell. The need is real and could drive this shift as our community needs follow us wherever we are.

Many of the coin-based communities are neither pure communities nor marketplaces, but a hybrid, market economy defined in a new way.

Once you remove the traditions of standard currencies from the platform the dynamics changes and this fresh hybridness takes over.

There is a stronger sense of ownership by both sides of the market and with it, a more generous reality of compensation that has the core value/compensation equation but different in yet inchoate ways.

It’s more convivial because trust is built into the transaction yet it is transactional not social by nature.

The dynamics of this are real, though not at all understood.

Marketing on blockchain-based marketplaces has the potential to be completely different.

This is the hardest one for me to come to grips.

When we moved online we brought with us our core behavioral needs. We evolved but the dynamics of groups and the needs of each of us are constant and will remain so.

But if you hang out in these marketplaces, the dynamics are more about community and less about networks. The KPIs that have driven marketing on the nets are out of place.

Engagement around the value of exchange feels natural though.

So what happens as the content producer on Steem want to grow their business footprint? Will this platform simply bring along with it all the crap from the social nets and start that media based mosh pit of target, find, touch, nourish, transact?

Or will it create its own dynamics where value in itself is the driver of attention?

Or is it as I’m prone to believe, a hybrid where community group dynamics will take on a new form in these market communities, starting out with a purer value-based engagement like we see in communities of interest today?

Moving forward

This relationship between private currencies, interconnected hybrid market economies and the changing face of communities and marketing is I think at the very beginning of change.

The craziness of ICOs will level out.

The behaviors of people and companies as they start to slowly reinvent our businesses and economies is just getting started.

If there is anything that we’ve learned from the crypto world is that the time to start engaging and shaping change is definitely right now.

When is the time to call it quits?

Everything is normalized in the glow of hindsight.

It’s a core survival instinct to rationalize the failures of our past as guidelines for the future. And nowhere is this more true than reflections on startups we just couldn’t make work.

There are endless posts on learning from the pains of failure, but few touch on the decision to quit itself. To those of us that have been there, that’s the inscrutable and tough one.  No matter who you are, how experienced you may be, this process is never completely rationale and always mired in pain and trauma.

This comes from the very nature of the startup dynamic I think.

By dint of what we do, we make the unimagined real. On a daily basis we work in an environment where the reality of our vision is invariably at odds with the realities of the marketplace.

We work in a perpetual state of suspended disbelief, rationalized through sheer drive and vision.  Every day is a medley of ups and downs, internalizing this over and over again making it hard, almost impossible at times, to decide when enough is really enough.

This came back to me with painful clarity the other day.

I was sitting at Esther’s wine bar in Santa Monica and was overcome with a wave of regret over my decision a number of years ago to shutter my passion project, thelocalsip, a community platform for the wine community and retailers across the globe

I so loved this idea.

This is the launch post, oozing with confidence and passion.

As I look back, I realize that my decision to close this down was shortsighted. Yes, wrong in the clear light of reflection.

Not that it was bound to succeed certainly, but because my criteria for the decision was incorrect. That years later, there is still a nagging personal ache in this area and a market hole that is still wide open.

I decided to close theLocalSip not because there wasn’t interest, there was. Not because there wasn’t value certainly. But because I simply couldn’t make the model work and as a bootstrap side venture, it needed economics of some sort to continue.

What I failed to acknowledge then that I understand now through experience, self-reflection and mentoring others, is that when we look at the hard realities of the marketplace, it is not a test of the model as much as it is whether we believe that our visions of value still holds.

Even in the face of market economics.

I’m not a P & L denier by any definition but in this instance, and in many facing entrepreneurs, it’s whether we still, even in the face of poor market fit and struggling to make payroll, believe not necessarily in the product but in the core need of people within the market that we were driving towards.

In a discussion with a buddy the other day, he took the other side of this argument. That execution not ideas matter. That not vision but market fit is what drives. That if you can’t raise the funds, that is a sign that you can’t sell the dream.

There’s truth here of course but everything aside, in the loneliness that only founders and CEOs understand, you need to come to grips with whether the passion of your drive is the archetypical Koolaid of self-delusion and should you just keep doing it. Or rethink it. Or is it time to close it down?

No matter how clear the learning is when looking in the rear-view mirror, nor how many times you go through it, it remains a struggle at this inflection point regardless of how skilled you are at managing your own emotions.

No matter how many times you have been in this hyper emotive state before.

I listened to an excellent Tim Ferris podcast on this topic recently, a compendium of stories from well known entrepreneurs on the topic ‘when to quit?’.

The one theme that stuck with me was—make a decision whether it is product that has failed, the market that has turned or whether your vision itself is still a driving force.

If it is the later and there is no market vision fit to boot, you learned something and move on.

If not, dig deep to see whether you have the poise and perspicacity to continue to work on the vision in some way that connects core belief to a still yet to be proven market.

Closing a company is a serious act of finality. Realizing that you need to rethink or redo or reconfigure, quite another.

Some people view the world as a series of great ideas with failed executions. Some as a race against market share and capital burn.

I’m prone to believing that the very best execution on a less inspired and internalized idea is a sure road to nowhere. And that vision, truly visualized yet still inchoate is not something to let go of so easily.

It took me a while to internalize this.

It’s a truth that mollifies the crazed highs and lows of startup existence, somehow making them more palatable. And something that should be of use to startup founders who are always dealing with this.

And for me personally, it makes me wonder–just a bit–whether I should brush of that theLocalSip database and give this passion another go.