Published: July 2023
Hi, I’m André:
For the past decade, this personal website of mine has been a neglected single-page affair as I focused on building a modern marketing education company I founded in 2011 (and now run by my dear friend and former business partner, Shawn Twing).
Upon turning fifty on March 7th this year, I became acutely aware of how short our time on earth is. I found myself coming to grips with a renewed sense of purpose, a fresh and vibrant drive to find a deeper, more profound meaning in life’s second half.
In recognizing this, I needed to honor it and embark on the next phase of my journey, free of regret.
I’m using this website as the canvas for this “next chapter,” which seems fitting because it’s where this journey began twenty years ago. I suspect this will be a decade-long project (if AI doesn’t take over first, rendering me irrelevant).
I’ve been earning a full-time living online since 2003, a lifetime ago, unrecognizable from today’s AI era driven by automation, computational intelligence, and human connectivity.
Shit was different back then. Hell, even a decade ago. Now grounded in twenty years of expertise, I have a broader sense of perspective.
Being the dinosaur I am, I’ve observed a worrying paradox in our increasingly distracted and machine-enhanced world.
While our “benevolent” (advertising-powered) audience aggregators like YouTube and Twitter and TikTok and Facebook/Meta, et al., have democratized the proliferation of content by anyone with some combination of keyboard, microphone, and camera (and armed to the teeth with an arsenal of AI tools), they also taketh with the other hand, like a pickpocket in the night fleecing us of our valuables.
These platforms promised to unite us, making the world smaller and cozier…
Yet, the hidden machinations behind everyone’s favorite social media and search platforms are engineered to exploit our primal instincts for validation, status, and mimetic desires (adopting or pursuing preferences and aspirations based on the influence of others rather than our intrinsic motivations), morphing into a manipulative force that feeds on our vulnerabilities and amplifies our darkest desires.
An engine of incentives fuels our greed glands and desire for ever more-more-more clicks, attention, and audience capture, subtly nudging us interaction-by-interaction away from the unvarnished essence of human connection.
Somewhere along the way, the needs of the individual were superseded by the need for the attention of an aggregated audience (bigger is better, after all), with the emphasis on the plural: more friends, followers, clicks, subscribers — and as fast as fucking possible!
While an audience is a group of unique individuals, a significant issue arises when our individual needs are overshadowed by the appeal of aggregated data, a metric tethered to one’s social status.
In this scenario, we become mere data points on millions of AI-driven newsfeeds, puppets in an entertainment game where we are both actors and audience — not the director of our actions, thinking, and self-identity.
When incentives are tethered to status and gaming attention as the mechanism for building an audience, we have a serious fucking problem.
We’re living in a sea of low-quality influencer content, which I believe offers an opportunity to create something better — something that emphasizes the signal over the noise, that’s slower, calmer, and personal.
In his 1999 letter, Jeff Bezos wrote, “We listen to customers, invent on their behalf, personalize the story for each of them, and earn their trust.” (Italics mine.)
(Aside: In 1999, my wife and I moved from South Africa to Europe to escape the increasing dangers in our homeland. We arrived in London with only three suitcases and £3,000 — the entirety of our worldly possessions –excited to begin our new journey.)
Bezos’ insights are worth internalizing today because they point to an alternative path for sovereign creators 1 like us who choose not to play the game of more-more-more at any cost.
“In life the challenge is not so much to figure out how best to play the game; the challenge is to figure out what game you’re playing.”Kwame Anthony Appiah (via Graham Duncan, The Playing Field)
While influencers and faux-experts trip over themselves to broadcast and publish pithy repurposed information to “followers” content on gorging on a diet of low-nutritional content, we get to play a very different game in how we attract, build, and serve audiences that matter.
And that “different game” is what I’ll be writing about here.
There are many, many ways to build an audience.
But over my two decades of experience, I have found that slowly curating and cultivating a smaller, highly engaged audience who are invested in their journey leads to greater satisfaction (and long-term profitability).
This creates a mutually beneficial win-win outcome that endures.
There’s a superpower in focusing on tiny instead of chasing mass, on slower instead of instant gratification.
Tiny Digital Worlds is for these people.
If this resonates with you, I’ve written a Manifesto — a call to arms for sovereign creators like us in how we seek to attract and grow audiences that matter.
Tiny Digital World Builder