2022 Ribbonfarm Extended Universe Roundup

This entry is part 16 of 17 in the series Annual Roundups

Somehow, I feel lowkey cheerful looking back at 2022. It feels like I hit an inflection point in the 15-year history of this blog, after 2-3 years of steadily letting go old ways and wandering in the desert. It feels like I am finally developing some interesting momentum in a new Act 2 direction that is a definite break from the past without being a rejection of it. I’m still muddling through, but now it is decisive muddling through. I think I let the somewhat frenzied experimentation of the peak pandemic years (2020-21) quiet down, and got some thorough reflecting, consolidating, and stock-taking done. Introspection that I hope will pay off in the next decade.

On to the extended universe roundup, featuring blog, newsletter, books, and a few more odds and ends. But first, a reintroduction.


I feel I’ve been around long enough that I can no longer assume readers who find their way here sorta know who I am and what this blog is. Especially since the blogosphere is basically dead now, and many blog-centric subcultures I’ve been on the fringes of over the years have scattered to the winds.

This place now feels a bit unmoored from its historical context and caught in a weird time warp, as one of the Last Blogs, like those Japanese soldiers left stranded on Pacific islands till the 50s and 60s who didn’t know World War 2 had ended. I’m finding it kinda fun to be an anachronism though, especially since time is one of the through-line themes in my writing.

Anyhow, fifteen years is a lot of time and words under the bridge online, so maybe it’s time to say hello again.

This blog has been around since 2007, and has gone through many distinct phases. But after the first few years of obscurity (the blog became relatively well-known around 2009), I could generally assume that its origins were recent enough, and the archives shallow enough, that the essence of it was legible to new readers willing to do a bit of clicking around. These readers, who were mostly my own age, give or take a decade, often read through the entire archives. This is no longer either practical or worthwhile (I’d guess about a third of the archives are still worth reading with some adequate re-contextualization).

The youngest new readers today, in high school or college (my sense is the youngest of my readers tend to be 17-18), were in kindergarten when I started this blog. If it’s around in a few years, new young readers will be ones who weren’t even born in 2007.

So like I said, time to say hello again.

My name is Venkatesh Rao, I am 48 years old, and am a former engineer and researcher who quit the regular paycheck lifestyle in 2011 to go feral. I’ve been a blogger since 2007, and an independent consultant since 2011, and have been up to various things over the last 15 years. You can get some backstory on the About page, and some helpful starting points on the For New Readers page (which needs some updating). For more on my personal background and work, you can check out venkateshrao.com.

If that’s not enough, I’m hoping to do a history post in 2023, so watch out for that.


I wrote even less this year than last year (23 posts as opposed to 29 in 2021), and effectively left the farm fallow (heh!) for the second year in a row. As in 2021, I deliberately avoided viral-potential writing, and accepted no guest posts. I also went slow on all the live blogchains (the Narrativium blogchain on storytelling was the most active, with 3 new posts). Here’s the list:

  1. Worldwinds
  2. Storytelling — End-Times Tales
  3. Ark Head
  4. Tangle Logic
  5. ε/δ Thinking
  6. Narrative Slipstream Effects
  7. A Dreaming World
  8. Tubeworld
  9. Storytelling — Tellability
  10. Virtue Degeneracy
  11. What is a Life?
  12. Storytelling — Mediocre Metamodernism
  13. Infirmity
  14. Crisis Mindsets
  15. The Map
  16. Elderblog Sutra: 13
  17. The Ribbonfarm Lab
  18. Fermi Estimates and Dyson Designs
  19. Divergentism
  20. Tools
  21. Animation Sublimation
  22. Storytelling — Narrative Wet Bulb Temperature
  23. Random Acts of X

One highlight was the short story The Map (#15) which was featured on The Browser. While I’ve been featured there quite a bit over the years, this is the first time I’ve ever had a fiction piece get any sort of validation, so I’m pretty pleased about that.

The Map was the only fiction piece of the year (I had 4 in 2021), but I think I’m finally finding my feet with storytelling. And even though I didn’t have much to show for it this year, I think the year of figuring out my approach will pay dividends. The theoretical exploration feels kinda done enough that I can now turn my attention to practice, though the theory of course remains interesting.

Another highlight post was The Ribbonfarm Lab (#17), which helped me start making some sense of my random acts of maker tinkering over the previous two years. The maker activities too went into reflection-stagnation mode this year, but again, it was a productive sort of reflection. Posts #8, #28 and #20 have more on that.

I also spent quite a bit of time mining my archives and notes to find and write up what I think are going to be lighthouse ideas for me going forward (#1, #3, #4, #5, #19). I think there’ll be more of that kind of archaeological-and-architectural consolidation in 2023.

Finally, I had a short-lived experimentation phase with animation (#21), and I learned enough to learn how hard it is. It is the medium I’m most attracted to after writing and simple illustration, now that I’ve decided podcasting and live video aren’t really for me. Animation is too hard for me to get into seriously right now, so it’s going into the Someday/Maybe folder for now, but I’ll be on the lookout for small experimentation opportunities.

Ribbonfarm Studio Newsletter

In case you weren’t aware, I have an active Substack newsletter called Ribbonfarm Studio. In 2022, I think it finally came into its own and found a voice, a thematic focus, and an approach that’s distinct from this blog.

The newsletter is basically a portfolio of serialized longer projects with more planning and less experimentation than the writing I put here. It’s also more outside-in than inside-out: it tends to be where I process my reactions to things going on in the world. This blog, by contrast, is where I scratch more personal itches.

The State of the Studio 2022 roundup issue is a good place to survey what the newsletter is about and sign up if you’re interested. A bunch of it is paywalled, but a bunch is not.

Note that this newsletter is not the same as the email updates from this blog, which you can also subscribe to (free) at the bottom of every post.


I published my first print books in a decade in 2022! With the help of Jenna Dixon, I turned my short-run Art of Gig newsletter (2019-21) into a carefully edited and sequenced 2-volume collection of essays.

It’s a bit niche — a sort of philosophical-practical introduction to the gig economy and the indie-consulting life (something I’ve written very little about publicly outside of this one project). But if the theme is relevant for you, I think it’s pretty good stuff. Also keep it in mind if you need to give someone a career-advice type gift. More here, in the November launch post, in case you missed it.

Besides this, as you may or may not be aware, I have one other proper book, Tempo, and 8 ebooks of compiled essays from the archives of this blog as well as various a couple of other projects. You can find them all linked on my Books page.

Yak Collective

After my Ribbonfarm projects, this is easily the most interesting and fun thing I’ve been up to. The Yak Collective is now almost 3 years old, and has turned into a small but dedicated group doing a lot of collaborative tinkering and studying together. I now spend at least 4-5 hours a week on YC activities. It’s become the unstructured continuing-Ed place I didn’t know I needed in my life.

There are weekly study/practice tracks on robotics, governance studies, distributed systems, and Fermi estimation, as well as the occasional collaborative project. There are also other nascent activity tracks that occasionally get lively, around fitness, storytelling, and AI. A lot of what we do is recorded and posted on YouTube now, so you might enjoy browsing the YouTube Yak Collective channel archives to get a sense of what it’s all about.

We will be doing a YakCon event in a couple of weeks that will be a great time to get onboard and sample the various activity tracks, so you might want to sign up now, and join that.

Web3 Stuff

I’ve been quite active on Web3 stuff, but not in a super-visible way. I have a significant consulting project going on on that front that I’ll be able to talk about in a month or two (probably on the newsletter rather than here).

I did one well-received talk at Ethereum DevCon in October that contains glimpses of what I’m up to. It was my first public, in-person talk in 3 years I think.

Technologically fascinating things are happening through this crypto winter (the fourth or fifth by my count), and it’s a good time to be involved.

Ribbonfarm School

This project has been back-burnered for so long — it makes just about enough money to pay for itself — you probably wouldn’t know I have a Teachable school unless you’ve been around for a few years. The main things there are the Art of Longform course and the Breaking Smart Workshop, but both are getting a bit long in the tooth now, and I’m reluctant to recommend either without doing a serious update, which I don’t have the motivation to do.

You can check it out, but barring inspiration striking, I have no plans for it this year either, and just might shut it down when it comes time to renew my Teachable subscription. We’ll see. I think I’m either temperamentally not suited to teaching, or have some sort of weird subconscious hangup about it that I don’t care enough to figure out.

Twitter-Like Substances

As you may have noticed, I’ve basically quiet-quit Twitter, and just post links and RT stuff on occasion. You can follow the @ribbonfarm account for writing updates, but my erstwhile main account @vgr is now locked and mostly inactive, beyond link RTs and the occasional announcement.

To the extent I still post tweet-scale content, I do so on Farcaster, an interesting Ethereum-native decentralized Twitter-like thing. It’s still in invite-only beta (dm founder Dan Romero, @dwr on Twitter for an invite), but I expect it to blow up a bit in 2023, so keep an eye on that. I’m probably too old for a reboot of my manic Twitter years, so I plan on being relatively quiet on that front.

Some of you have asked, but I’m probably not going to reactivate on Mastodon. My experience with it a few years ago left me underwhelmed by that corner of the social internet.

I am wondering what to do with my 15 years of Twitter history though. I have a nice compilation of ~100 good threads that I feel like I should publish in some form. Possibly a static site or a specially formatted book. I have my archives sitting around and have my eye on a couple of archive-publishing tools, but am open to suggestions.

2023 Outlook

I’ve semi-jokingly made an actual resolution for 2023: Set up my Dev Environment, per this joke.

I think the key to leveling up all the interesting stuff I got into through the pandemic to “serious enough to withstand post-reboot busyness” is to set up robust dev environments, so to speak. Environments which can survive the harsh radiation of making-a-living space.

I’m now in a more comfortable and steady place with my consulting work than I’ve ever been, but speculative personal creative projects still have to battle for time/energy/attention with it. Consulting is my main source of actual income, in case any newer readers are under the mistaken impression that I live off writing (though the Substack income is now significant enough it is less untrue than before).

I also have a vague plan to really take stock of the first 15 years of Ribbonfarm, continuing the process I started on a whim this year. It feels like I’ve gone through some sort of regeneration over the last 3 years, but to really dive into the future, I think I have to make sense of the past somehow.

Somewhere in the 15 years worth of annual roundups and dozen books and ebooks, there is a story with a logic that at present eludes me. The past now feels alien, like it happened to someone else, but is not yet legible. I suspect, one part of figuring out what it was all about is to actually dive back into my archives with a stranger’s eyes, and try to identify and separate out live, dead, and ephemeral threads of thought, and then figure out how the still-living threads manifest in the post-regeneration headspace. If I manage to do that, I might write a History of Ribbonfarm post.

Given that vague intention, I’ve also set myself a theme, to go with my resolution, for 2023: memory. What it is, how to think about it, how to work with it, etc. etc. Not quite sure how the theme will manifest, but we’ll see.

In the meantime, Happy New Year!

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About Venkatesh Rao

Venkat is the founder and editor-in-chief of ribbonfarm. Follow him on Twitter


  1. now that you’ve locked your twitter, do you have any thoughts on hosting your tweets somewhere else? in case twitter fails, or anything like that, because i do think that there’s a lot of value in your twitter archive – and yes, by that i include the content not included under the 100+ threads you might publish. because like, damn – 15 years of twitter history, i think it’s a darn shame if all that just vanished overnight

  2. Ralph Witherell says

    Thanks Venkatesh. You are a high flying bird.