An introduction to the new and expansive Web3 space

If you haven’t heard of Web3 yet, you’re probably living under a rock. It’s in the news all the time, and everyone has been talking about it online for a while now! So what the heck is it?

Web3 is a convenient way to package up the evolution of the internet.

It helps to look at the history of where we’ve come from to understand what this terminology means. We can frame it in a way that makes sense based on the progress of technology and its applications.

The evolution of web technology in simpler terms:

Web1 – Websites (static)
Web2 – Social Media (interactive)
Web3 – Decentralization (connected)

This is how I summarize it to make sense of it all.

Web1 consisted of basic websites and eCommerce. Web2 was the next movement, with social networks and mobile-first becoming the priority. Web3 is still unfolding, starting with headliners like blockchain technology and artificial intelligence pushing the boundaries.

The catalyst for Web3 fundamentally has been the extended development of blockchain technology and putting it to work.

Decentralization

Instead of something hosted within a closed system – think “Facebook” or any other similar platform – the data network moves towards different options. An example would be blockchain technology on a P2P network via dApp – bypassing a traditional centralized authority that usually controls who has access. Does that sound like nonsensical tech speak? Think cryptocurrency (Ethereum), peer to peer (direct) and decentralized application (open source software).

Permissionless

Transparency is leading the way. Again, blockchain is an excellent example of this. Data of transactions are stored on a public network easily accessible by anyone to see. It’s simply a record of information. There is no authority in place to meddle with who can do what. Updates are reflected live for all to review.

Connectivity

Dependency on traditional models of hardware and software is less apparent. Signing and accessing things via a unique wallet address is a straightforward way of directly doing something without limitations. Security becomes the primary focus for keeping identity unique, anonymous and safe.

Artificial Intelligence

The options and applications are endless, whether using AI for generating concepts, ideating, or even creating text. Live chat with virtual assistants, creating website copy or creating randomly generated artwork based on defined parameters are excellent use cases we’ve seen out there in the wild already.

What does it mean for your business?

Consider how you might be able to apply Web3 technology for your benefit and your customers.
Do you need to utilize Web3 for your company? Maybe, maybe not. Don’t do it to feel like you’re hip with the new kids in town. Web1/2 is still very much alive. Think of it as layers on top of one another.

Web3 is the gateway to so many opportunities it’s hard not to get tempted and jump right in.
There is a metaverse of people building amazing things.

Brands are finding ways to bridge the gap between Web2 and Web3, you could call it Web2.5 if you’d like. We’ll be seeing a lot of interesting collaborations happening!

While it’s not for everyone, as we’ve learned over time, in general, it’s inevitable and we need to embrace change. It’s happening and it’s here to stay whether or not you like it.

In the least, it serves you to be aware.

What to consider in choosing the right branding agency

Selecting the right branding agency to work with is a process that typically happens before your project starts and is a crucial first step. For some clients, having everything under one roof is desirable but it’s quickly realized that it often comes with a price tag that can cause extreme sticker shock.

The traditional model

The days of genuine full-service design agencies are few and far between. A typical more prominent agency has a lot of top-heavy management that outsources work to smaller shops or contractors who do the job. So you end up paying for margins and overhead at that point. Or the big guys are buying up smaller companies or creating new branches to crush the competition. At that level, you’re often faced with many promises and the good old broken telephone, which can cause tension and politics that slows down any momentum.

Sure, you could try your luck on Fiverr or hire a freelancer. For many that go down this path, they quickly realize that to get the results desired, you have to make a wise decision and invest once into a verified leader in the industry. Because time is money and you don’t want to do the same thing 2 or 3 times before you get it right.

The alternative

Enter the agile, ‘anti-agency’ that can fulfil your needs with thoughtful planning, strategy and handpicked team members who are specialists in their own right. Refreshing transparency and reasonable budgets to get the same, if not better quality of work complete.

Qualifying an agency is no different from an agency qualifying a client. It’s a relationship like any other and you’re going to be working with each other for the duration of the project and, ideally, well beyond that, so you want to make sure it’s a good fit.

We happily categorize Jackson Wynne as this option.

Things to look for

How they work

You’ll notice a lot of overlap and similarities in processes between branding agencies, depending on what you’re looking for. Having a process in place ensures that a project runs smoothly and it’s not their first rodeo. This provides structure and a formula that can be followed for consistent results. Some agencies get a little carried away, branding and trademarking this and that, which gets to be a bit much – but it speaks to packaging something up that feels more like an exclusive, secret formula. It’s a bit market-y and cheesy, but someone is buying into it. Of course, you need to go off-script for something new or different.

Services offered

Does the agency offer what you need? Often there is some wiggle room if you require something more specific. Things can be accommodated and brokered or project managed, but make sure the core services offered align with your needs. Occasionally, you are not sure what you need, so that’s where consultation and planning phases help map out insights that are useful to do the work properly.

Track record

There are too many “fly by night” companies who won’t be around next year. You want to make sure you hire someone with a well-balanced, seasoned portfolio with specific examples of work via a portfolio or case study format.

Having some experience in your industry is beneficial. Sometimes taking a calculated risk is fine because transferable skills and related projects can apply. Enter the catch-22 – how does one get experience if they are never hired for it?

Testimonials

This is a standard. Most work will speak for itself, but it helps to verify things by a client who worked with the agency. Ask for references if needed.

Things to be cautious of

Companies claiming they can “do it all.”

There are a lot of inexperienced companies that claim to be able to do it all. I would be very suspicious of that claim since diluting your core service offering means you’re spread thin and become a jack-of-all-trades; yes man, “we can do that for you.” But you just have to wonder if they really can do it and how well they can do it, if at all in most instances.

Too trendy

Flash in the pan agencies who are one-trick ponies fill a niche, but you want to be careful about those young companies still figuring things out. The allure of hype and PR only takes you so far. Buying into excitement is fine, but you need to consider your short-term *and* your long-term needs.

Trying too hard

I’ve seen smaller agencies try to look bigger than they are by doing some pretty weird stuff like Photoshopping the same employee 4 or 5 times into a photo to make it seem like there are more people in the office. Overcompensating for lack of warm bodies is embarrassing at best and just comical to see. If the end product you produce speaks for itself, you shouldn’t need to throw smoke and mirrors at clients to feel like a legitimate service provider.

Lots of buzz words

I cannot stress enough how important it is to understand and see through this veil. If the rep you’re talking to throws around many big words, they’re selling hard and don’t know what they’re talking about. Little do they realize that they are probably scaring you off unless they’re speaking your language, then it could be music to your ears?

Things to consider

Localization

With the internet, working with companies abroad is becoming standard. Figuring out time zone differences can be tricky to work around but very doable. There is something to be said about face-to-face that is a challenging element you want to try and have if possible but work with what you have.

Starting small

Building trust and rapport is essential to make sure both sides are committed. Starting on a large project may not be an excellent first step. Perhaps you want to try a smaller project first to test the waters and develop a working relationship before you dive in. That is more than fair.

There are many providers out there that offer similar services. They all have very similar processes and approaches, use the same technologies, etc. Ultimately, develop a relationship with people you think you would enjoy working with! What makes these companies different? It all boils down to that.

Talk to them, meet them, get to know them and trust them to do the job!

The Design Chapel: Ultimate backyard custom built garden home office shed

Private sanctuary, rejoice! What is better than having a separate office for your work-from-home situation?

When I was much younger, building a tree fort in my friend’s backyard was an experience never to forget. Finding old pieces of wood, climbing a tree and hammering rusty nails with little to no engineering experience is a right of passage for learning things by trial and error. And it might not be the prettiest thing you’ve ever seen but it was an exercise in creative freedom and futility that nothing else can provide.

Before we get into the juicy details, let’s take a look at some beautiful photos of the final product:

Fast-forward to today as a designer who appreciates the finer things, there is nothing better than having your own private space to work away on a project.

This time, instead of building it myself, I reached out online to get the help of a professional who gets it.

Thanks to Craft Living and Little Blue House Design, they were able to help realize the vision.

Where to begin: Plans, Permits, etc.

Do not overlook the planning phase. This is the most important. It starts with a conversation and leads to a mood board that provides the direction and atmosphere for everything.

I had provided an idea of what we wanted to do with the backyard space, including rough backyard layout sketches, photos and thoughts with some inspiration with photos for examples of stuff I liked. It’s nice being the client for a change!

It varies from city to city, but generally, you do not need a building permit if your structure is under 108 sq ft (in Toronto). Our concerns were addressed and made sure we created a space we could use confidently upon completion.

Craft Living is not a prefab company. They build everything from scratch, custom for your needs. Think of it as a little home in your backyard.

If you’ve ever explored the world of home add-ons, you’ll see all kinds of use cases for it such as an extra bedroom, nanny suite, play space, exercise room and of course office. The list goes on.

The Build

To streamline the space and transform the backyard, part of the garden had to go.

The deck was phase 1 since this was the foundation for everything. It transforms the space by unifying the back portion of the yard, which was originally a small sloping hill. Now it has a desirable area for a picnic table to lounge, enjoy BBQs and the like.

With any significant undertaking, this project was no exception and had its challenges to overcome. Due to COVID-19, there were some issues with materials (hello lumber prices!!!), project delays (hard to get supplies/pickup/delivery), subcontractors, labour shortages and dealing with a backlog of overlapping projects to contest with. As with most construction work, issues are to be expected, so in the end, all that matters is the final product. And it was worth it.

We ended up on a structure around 10×10′, which provides just enough room for a workspace and a small lounge area. A private space perfect for working on the computer, conference calls, enjoying a fresh beverage or sneaking in a power nap.

The final result

The project began in April and finished in October. And we couldn’t be happier with the final result. The process took longer than expected but it was well worth the wait.

Credits

Cryptocurrency and your business

Let me preface this by saying this is in no way financial advice. I had to say it.

You may have heard about things like Bitcoin, Ethereum, Dogecoin (the list goes on) and all sorts of other related things. And more recently – NFTs and the evolution of the next generation of technology, whether you want to call it the metaverse or not.

Some call it Web 3.0; others are calling it a fad. The thing is, it’s already here and gaining momentum.

Is this a passing phase, or does it have real staying power? With volatile ups and downs and fast-paced, ever-evolving trends, it’s hard to keep up with the latest and greatest.

What does it mean for your business?

From a business perspective, how does this affect operations in the near future and what does it mean?

In terms of eCommerce, the implications are simple. Being able to accept transactions online in a digital currency will become a standardized method of payment. It’s already here, and while a few issues are being worked through, it seems like it’s not going anywhere anytime soon.

With companies like PayPal throwing their hat into the ring, it’s only a matter of time before the everyday merchant joins the ranks of these early adopters.

You don’t need to look too far for models that are already in play. In China, there are integrated technologies with WeChat Pay that proves the model works at scale.

Stores already accept payments at physical retail locations; it’s not only happening online.

What sorts of things are out there?

You may have heard of NFTs with popular artists like Beeple selling digital artwork for hundreds of thousands of dollars (or more). He is just one of many in a digital marketplace buying and selling digital artwork. The opportunities are out there.

NFTs like CryptoPunk and Bored Ape Yacht club provide an exclusive membership where you purchase a limited edition avatar and can then resell it later for much more than you bought it for. That’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Why does one trend catch on and another not? It’s hard to say but there are many artists out there now wanting a piece of it and I can’t say I blame them. Today, it certainly helps to have a following. The more eyes on your work, the more chances it will gain momentum but it’s easier said than done.

Digital collectibles make a lot of sense. Arguably, it’s like any other collectible. It just exists in a different context. Ask anyone else and they might not understand why you spent “so much money for a jpeg,” and they are technically not wrong. The medium may not be physical but the message is the same – if there is demand in the market, there is value despite raising a few eyebrows along the way.

It’s a revolution of the perception of physical value that is seemingly hard to quantify when it converts to bits and bytes. Yet here we are.

OK, but is it safe?

Like with any currency, it’s prudent to have a safety and security system in place to help eliminate potential threats. With anything new, it can be scary to dive in. Some dip their toes and say it’s not for them, and that’s fine too.

There is a lot of misinformation out there about Bitcoin’s main purpose as a vessel for fraud and dark web use cases that has little to some truth behind it but also has become sort of a mythological beast on its own.

Right now, for the average Joe, it can feel overwhelming to jump into. The price point for entry is considerably high. Despite being able to buy fractional currencies, knowing when to get in or sell can be daunting unless you’re on team HODL all the way.

Like any gambling or investment, you need to be comfortable with whatever risk you’re willing to take on.

The future is nigh, if not already here

It’s hard not to get excited about the potential for where blockchain technology can take things. And where it already has. Passionate communities with individuals sharing something new for everyone opens up a level playing field for newbies and veterans alike.

For businesses, getting everyday merchants on board will take some time. With companies like Tesla pulling payments for Bitcoin to payment processors like Stripe rethinking things, the main hurdles to overcome are aligning blockchain technology with the right transaction system that has stability.

Timing is everything. The applications are endless but the technology is still fairly new and a lot of people are waiting around for someone else to figure it out.

Until then, enjoy the wild west, try it out if you like to see what works for you and let’s see how this all unfolds. It’s going to be a hell of a ride in the next few years.


Remotely Working – The Ups and Downs of WFH

Due to COVID-19, many teams have recently had to adapt and pivot to new working models. 

The remote-first model is the new framework for many companies. Having the option of working fully remote is a godsend to some people and for others, it can feel overwhelmingly isolating.

Empowering your remote employees while having an option for in-person collaboration is the best of both worlds.

As things start to ease up, we’ll see a new way of working where varying options exist. Having it both ways is ideal to embrace the hybrid model (remote/office).

At Jackson Wynne

We have been successfully working remotely within our company for a few years, long before 2020 hit.

With our core team spread across the GTA and with partners and collaborators in other countries, working remotely was in play long before the pandemic would’ve forced our hand. 

While meeting up in person is still an excellent way to work, the average “office worker” who only needs a laptop and access to the internet could, in theory, work anywhere in the world and still be effective.

Pros and Cons

The one benefit of working from home is setting flexible hours. 

If you need to run an errand, there is no need to come up with an excuse or take a day off work for an appointment.

Life happens and it’s sometimes necessary to get things done inside of regular working hours.

Accountability is still in play, definitely not to be ignored. Punching in from 9-5 pm seems almost like a relic where you could instead work hours better for you and get all your work done and then some.

As a business owner, things can be slightly different, but from the perspective of a day-to-day producer, I can still see the plus side.

It starts with trusting yourself and your coworkers to show up and get things done—all without middle managers breathing down your neck to stay on task.

Working from home – with everyone else around

Things like scheduling conference calls can be tricky if you have limited space. If you have a partner, overlapping dialogue can be challenging if you share a home office or small space.

For remote workers without children, count your blessings. Imagine having to work a full-time job and homeschool your children. This is the reality for many throughout the world. Without daycare, school or limited options for assistance, it can put you in a tough spot.

Success with your team

The remote method works at scale; ask any international startup that operates across multiple countries and time zones. Connect when you can and coordinate to create a streamlined company workflow.

At the heart of its success, communication is critical. Have regular check-ins and continue to set goals/targets as you usually would.

With things like Zoom and Slack, internal communication is mostly there. The double-edged sword of that is making sure that 24/7 availability doesn’t become the norm – you still need healthy boundaries to keep your head on straight and stay productive.

Unless you embrace virtual reality meetings, which is debatable as the next best thing, virtual work can leave a lot to be desired.

It’s not all sunshine and rainbows

Working from home can be great, but often overlooked is that it can have a downside.

Isolation from a centralized office can be a huge bummer. It’s great to have coworkers to grab lunch with or bounce ideas off of, which can be difficult to recreate authentically online where things always feel a little disjointed from reality.

It’s important to have systems in place to keep employees connected. Whether that’s weekly virtual meetings or you have an annual summit meet-up. Whatever is feasible.

Bottom Line

For the return to the office, many are looking forward to the environment, social engagement and routines/rituals that come with it. I completely understand those happily running towards it.

For the same reason, many have become accustomed to working from home. To take that away entirely without offering any options is not an ideal situation to have.

Whether you are working from home, in the office or both – whatever works. I say all the more power to each individual.

As I write this from a home office during business hours, I can assure you that remote working has worked out well, at least for me for the past 3-4 years.

We can discuss the 4 day work week everyone has been talking about recently another time.

How does remote work or not work for you and your team?

Unpacking the Peloton Revolution

^ OK that is NOT a Peloton.

For the record – this is an unsponsored post. I’m just a huge advocate for the at-home exercise products that they have managed to master and improve on.

I tend to ignore the recent news. Every company has its ups and downs so quarterly results are important but not in the scope of thinking long term. They are a successful company and offer a lot of insight on the perfect storm of several things, most notably: Product, Digital, and Community.

Many see it as an overnight success. The truth is, it wasn’t always a hot product. Founded in 2012, it was a long hard road to get to where it is today. An exercise startup that gained momentum over time, making the right moves and ended up a smash hit globally (as long as you live in the U.S., UK, Germany and of course, Canada).

The exercise industry was ready for a revolution with the marriage of technology with a premium designer-level product and the all too familiar subscription model.

Keeping in mind this is not a bargain brand, the price is a sticker shock for many but it’s the price of entry. The promise it delivers is encouraging providing fresh content for as long as you stay motivated to continue for.

Community

Perhaps the most compelling part of Peloton is its tribe-like psychology. Joining live with your friends and connecting and competing with people all around the world with the live feed. Represent a group through a hashtag, start your own and follow your favourite instructor all from the comfort of your home, wherever that may be.

From a social perspective, you’ll find like-minded friends and family or find new people who get it and are experiencing a similar journey.

Instructors

Part of the main draw is choosing the instructor(s) you vibe with. They have different challenges and music tastes and change it up to keep things interesting.

Celebrity-like personalities in their own right, you have ex DJs, athletes and sports enthusiasts becoming huge names. The cult of personality is huge here and there are opportunities for some that grow their personal brands extending beyond Peloton for multiple revenue streams.

Customer Experience

From a company perspective, the product is digital, it just happens to include a physical exercise bike or treadmill, etc. The experience starts online from your first interaction with live chat asking questions to your eCommerce order, buying with Affirm as an option for monthly instalments.

Picking your delivery day and the friendly crew that comes and drops off your bike and orientates you on everything.

Gamification

Reaching 100 rides gets you into the century club and you get a t-shirt for the accomplishment. It sounds like a small gesture but it makes it real. Milestones are set for you to keep going and hit your next huge goal.

Live feeds show who you are against and what ranking position you’re in.

Hitting personal bests has to be one of the best features. You are competing against yourself.

Getting monthly reports on your stats is a helpful check-in to see how things are going, how you did compared to the previous month.

Subscription

Every business owner loves an opportunity to have a recurring billing structure. Peloton charges a monthly fee for you to access the system. You don’t need to do this, but it’s like having an Xbox without any games – you kind of need it.

Think of it as a gym membership, it’s easier to swallow that way at least that’s what I tell myself. In terms of making it worth it, exercising enough to “earn” your fee is another way to look at it.

Recommendations

Peloton comes with the bike and integrated tablet ready to go, just plug it in and set up your account and you’re ready to go.

Some suggestions to make the most of it:

  • Invest in a good set of wireless exercise headphones
  • A good bluetooth heartrate monitor is essential
  • Yes – get a headband, thank me later
  • Bike shorts provide some extra padding
  • Get a few moisture-wicking shirt(s) for the week
  • Definitely consider a fan – hello Vornado
  • Have a water bottle handy, drink water when you need it

Folks, don’t forget to warm up and cool down. Often skipped, but very necessary.

Down the road

There are some minor issues to consider. For example, if more than one person rides the bike in your household, it’s a pain in the butt to constantly adjust the settings. Make sure you have enough ceiling room height to stand up on the bike.

What’s in store for Peloton? Can they get past the inevitable issues, lawsuits and bad press to continue to innovate the next generation of exercise technology? It’s still early yet but it’s exciting to see where they take it.

From lockdown to open for business

The writing was on the wall. Inevitable.

It was January 2020. Nobody *really* saw it coming.
Restrictions in Ontario began in March. An official lockdown didn’t happen until December 2020.

So many industries have been terribly affected by the lockdowns, especially travel, restaurants, events and entertainment businesses, to name a few. Small businesses that are month to month were hit the worst with no way to pay their lease or mortgages, let alone staff. Every week in the news, you heard of a restaurant being shut down.

At first, it seemed fine because it was only temporary and nobody knew the reality of how long this would last.

Fast forward to today, almost 2 years later and it’s still going on. We’ve moved past a pandemic and into the endemic territory.

What does this mean for your business today?

Many are playing catch-up and want to get whole again. Trying to hire back a workforce that is no longer there or hesitant to return or already moved on. It’s decimated progress and we’ll see the long-term effects of this for years to come.

It’s hard to think of the last major event that happened since many of us weren’t around for it, i.e. “The Spanish Flu” in 1918. If you study history, it’s a recurring theme that does happen in cycles. While it feels like something you can’t account for, and in many ways, it did blind-side us all, the truth is this is nothing new. Bill Gates was right when he said it’s not a matter of “if” but “when.”

Even with this knowledge – the whole thing is really surreal and many are still trying to figure out what happened left picking up the pieces.

Is your business pandemic proof? Pivoting and adapting

What sort of techniques have you seen out there for businesses trying to survive?

Whether it’s ramping up a product or service and offering delivery to changing your business model altogether.

We’ve seen entire industries shift to advance their offering. A good example is grocery stores offering delivery (OK, this existed before, but there is no excuse like the present to REALLY make it work).

Despite best efforts, it’s a sad realization that many businesses don’t make it and have to shut down. Take it as an opportunity to learn and regroup or shift your focus to something new.

What’s next

I’m not one to pretend like I have all the answers because who knows how this will all go.

After a better portion of the globe is vaccinated and we’ve mostly managed the virus, 2022 is a year of hope. Of rebuilding. Businesses once shuttered will be flourishing again with a healthy and active, loyal customer base just itching to get back out there.

Living through bad times has presented an opportunity to revisit our priorities and focus on what’s truly important.

Many say people have short attention spans and in a year, it will feel like a distant memory. I personally feel like this is a reminder to all – what’s the most important thing in life? Your health, wellness, partners, friends and family are always going to be number one.

So if you forgot that, all it takes is a pandemic as a friendly reminder to treat each other well. While we’re not all in the same boat, we are in this together and should do our best to make the experience a little better by being good to one another in any way possible.

One small gesture at a time.

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