Folks in Silicon Valley are upset because they aren’t having as many chance meetings under lockdown. Poor darlings. Definitely the most pressing problem to emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic so far, amirite?

Anyway, this led to an interesting Twitter conversation about how bullshit that idea is — of distributed work somehow removing serendipity from the equation — to those of us who have been living and working globally for the past decade.

Silicon Valley’s ecosystem is organised specifically to facilitate “chance” meetings. It’s not difficult to create or access that same serendipity online. Bonus: equivalent virtual ecosystems can include a much wider variety of people. Chance meetings already happen all the time in virtual environments. Think about how you came to be reading this email. I bet you can trace it back to a digital interaction.

Of course, distributed work doesn’t mean you won’t ever see or meet anybody in the physical world. Your professional interactions might be online, but you’ll still need to drink, eat, shop, socialise, and be entertained. That creates lots of opportunity for IRL human connection.

Instead of spending time with people just like you in an office, you become involved with the “watercooler chat” of your local community by visiting hubs like coffee shops and lunch venues. Freelancers and digital nomads have been doing this for years. The result? More encounters between people of different backgrounds and perspectives. That has so many benefits.

Silicon Valley’s models of work and business are beginning to feel outdated and irrelevant. So isn’t it about time for some fresh, borderless thinking?

PS: My pal and collaborator Anna Codrea-Rado is asking freelance writers to submit their recent assignment rates. She hopes to improve our understanding of the relationship between pay gaps, ethnicity and gender among freelancers. Participate anonymously below.

The Big Idea: Niche Celebrities

The days of everybody following the same stars in weekly gossip rags are behind us. Nobody can keep up with all the YouTubers, Twitch streamers, Instagrammers and TikTok users in 2020.

For example, have you ever stood next to a friend as they encounter an idol and had no idea who it was? These moments are a gentle reminder that everybody constructs their own universe through the information they access and the content they consume.

As more interaction moves online, people are creating small but global communities around shared interests. These communities come with their own characters and tastemakers. The concept of celebrity is fragmenting; niche celebrities are what comes next.

Advertising spends are already moving in this direction. Individual influencers with small but highly engaged audiences appeal more than media juggernauts haphazardly serving broader churches. Increasingly, specialisation is king.

Maker of the Week: Nikesh Shukla

Nikesh is a bestselling writer of books and TV. He’s also a columnist for The Observer, editor of The Good Journal, and co-founder of The Good Literacy Agency — among a few other roles and titles.

TIME Magazine recently named him one of twelve leaders shaping the next generation of artists, he’s been shortlisted for a Liberty Human Rights Award, and he was one of Foreign Policy’s 100 Global Thinkers in 2016.


What I admire most about Nikesh is that he pursues variety in his work without ever compromising on quality or principles. His projects are always carefully conceived, and he consistently champions underrepresented voices.

If you’re not familiar with Nikesh yet, start with The Good Immigrant — a collection of first-person essays examining the British cultural conversation around race. He edited the anthology and wrote the introduction.

Buy the book

Handpicked for You

📺 TED Talk: Amanda Palmer on The Art of Asking

An early adopter of couchsurfing and crowdfunding, the outspoken artist shares her story of building a creative career and deepening her relationship with fans — by asking them directly for help, support, and cash.

🗞️ “1,000 True Fans? Try 100” by Li Jin

In 2008, Wired editor Kevin Kelly made a prediction: that the internet would enable people to make their living as online creators with just 1,000 fans. This article updates the theory and argues that, these days, 100 fans are all you need.

📖 “New Power” by Jeremy Heimans & Henry Timms

How does the internet help spread ideas and spawn global movements? This book explores the question, with sharp commentary on the rise of Me Too and Black Lives Matter. Think of it as a crash course in how to market important ideas in the 21st century.

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