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📡 Team Interviews: Felipe, Paratii’s Project Lead

Aligning longtime crooked incentives in the media industry, ups and downs of distributed workforces, and collaborative systems as a means to build a better future.

1. Can you start by telling about yourself — who are you and what is it that you do at Paratii?

I am Felipe, currently the project lead @ Paratii. In practice, my role is to constantly sharpen the vision behind what we’re building, hire talent, keep the environment motivating, and make sure our finances are healthy. I also work a bit on research and help shape future versions of our product.

2. What’s your academic background / back story?

I come from a marketing + advertising background (ESPM-SP), but found academia mostly useful for bumping into new people and ideas. Quant. Research led me to interview 300 strangers in search of common patterns behind odd-or-even matches (spoiler: 69.1% chances of winning if you follow one simple rule), another class was where I met the 💑 of my life, and it was actually Linguistics which sparked my interest in semantics, databases & distributed technology.

I dropped off college midway through (but finished it later!) to do a round-the-world trip and ended up crowdfunding a book about interviews I had done along the way. It was a small success at the time, and I got deep into crowdfunding, eventually reading about Mastercoin and their crazy Exodus-from-bitcoin crowdfunding idea. I knew nothing about crypto, and remember getting this strange feeling of awareness at the same time I couldn’t fully grasp a sentence, when reading a bitcoin’s paper. As it usually happens, the paradigm shift would take some time to sink in.

3. What initially got you interested in Ethereum?

A friend went abroad to work with Ethereum in a bank, and eventually introduced me to Jelle, who’d later become Paratii’s Tech Lead. I realized blockchain wasn’t big around me yet for purely geographic reasons. A pivotal moment was a talk I heard, given by Alex Van de Sande, the only Brazilian employed by the ethereum Foundation at the time, in an antique theater in São Paulo. It was named “How to build a better democracy in 100 lines of code”, and he actually illustrated it with a piece of code from the DAO.

I left extremely excited, but with the disturbing sensation that this was either an infallible groundbreaking technology or a masterly orchestrated bubble. One week after the talk, the bubble burst with the DAO hack, and I realized it was neither a scheme nor infallible, but rather the greatest socioeconomic experiment ever played out on the internet.

At some point, Alex described Ethereum in a manner that I still remember. It was “a patch to corruption; electing robots, not politicians; code, not philosophy; and the decentralization of power”. Enough to consolidate any interest. :)

The “office” where part of the team works, in São Paulo, Brazil.

4. How did you decide to start Paratii?

I was working with Paulo Perez within BossaNova, in a business unit focused on intellectual property and technology. BossaNova is one of the biggest film, advertising & TV production companies in Brazil, and, although it seems glamorous at film festivals and award ceremonies, reality is cruel from a business perspective. First, feature-length movies rarely make any money. Second, advertisement production turns in a lot of money. Third, the creative people in the industry are there to make movies, not ads. Fourth, the greedy people in the industry are here to make money, not movies.

As you can see, a jungle of crisscrossed incentives. Add some government subsidies that make national TV production artificially profitable in the mix, and to make things worse, don’t forget corruption is endemic. Anyone who’s worked in an ad agency here can explain in details what are the hidden fees and overcharging practices behind every cent spent on media. Every layer of the value chain is squeezed by intermediaries from all sides.

Where do content producers stand, in the middle of this mess? They are at the bottom of the food chain. And, in the current architecture of the market, there’s no clear way to make a living if you don’t cross a really high threshold of status or audience. It doesn’t matter if you go to TV, cinema, or the internet; on an individual or collective scale: for niche production, if you have an audience that’s relevant, but below this threshold, your earnings probably won’t cover your costs of keeping work up to speed. Despite, we still see tons of content (movies, series, shows, extreme sports, animation) on the market that’s made with love, even though it brings losses to its producers after dozens of revenue shares.

This is not how things should work. There’s so much to be fixed… I just wanted to help people share their stories in a more efficient, fair and inclusive way. Guess this was the drive since the beginning. Paulo Perez and I got more support we could ever ask for from Eduardo, CEO at BossaNova, and then things started.

5. As a consumer of video/digital content, where would you say your average experience could be improved the most?

Sometimes I don’t have access to what I want because of the region I’m in. Sometimes, it’s because someone simply decided to delete it (even if it’s an important piece of history). Both are terrible.

I am particularly bothered by filter bubbles, reason why I get excited about decentralized methods of content recommendation. AI has gotten a long way down the road to the point where machines know you much better than yourself. This is a corollary of comfort, in some sense, and I’m fine with it, but I’d really like to have the right to choose which machines to get recommendations from, at least, instead of having all my attention dictated by a “single source of truth”.

I’d also like to have more control over my exposure to ads, in whichever manner that turns out to work. I’m not against or in favor of them, it’s just a model like others, with its benefits and drawbacks. But the way its revenue gets cut does indeed bother me: as a consumer, I would love to see my favorite content providers earning the full value they create with they work.

6. What’s your vision for the digital content distribution landscape in a medium-term future, in terms of power distribution, alternative channels and user behaviour? Where does Brazil stand, in this scenario?

Power is going to be much more fluid. Ultimately, in an open market for content distribution, it should derive from how many people you impact times how much you impact each (which is of course very hard to measure) — that is, how much power you’re actually able to exert. Disintermediated channels and networks are key for us to get there. Every content producer with an engaged audience should be able to find his way to make a living off his work. I’m not in the position of predicting user behavior in any form, but I do believe fans are going to get closer to creators, not all the time, but whenever they want to, at the reach of a token, a content share, or anything that gives back some value.

Fake news, bipolarisation and other social issues are never going to be solved by technology alone. I also don’t think we’ll see this many agents being pushed out of the market by decentralization. Publishers, advertisers, media buyers and agencies may all reinvent their business models (again), but instead of negotiating under shady rules and a heavily intermediated system, they’ll have to make business on an open market, cooperate on some level, even if protocolar.

I hope Brazil takes a more prominent position in this emerging scenario. Our culture is exceptionally creative, but usually on the backseat when it comes to regulating and welcoming technology.

7. How does it feel to work with a distributed team? Do you see this as a trend for the future of work?

It feels natural. Involves a high level of trust, so you got to be comfortable with whom you’re working with. For small teams, and for distributed ones, it’s a no-brainer. Have I mentioned there’s this global payment network you can use to overcome national borders and bureaucracy? Of course, it’s just the tip of the iceberg. I’m looking forward to seeing “distributed-ness” on more fundamental levels of work, from task-sharing to feature-based crowd financing.

I have a friend who once described me his job as a place where he’s always “awaiting an email to forward this email.” Sarcastic, for sure, but think of how many people spend more than half their working hours doing nothing productive? Natural evolution has to eliminate this. In open source, you have all issues there, everyone knows what has to be done, and sees what others are working on. In general, I believe inertia, incompetence and corruption tend to diminish in transparent environments. A lot of behaviors are changing, long-term. I recommend following the research efforts of Colony and Aragon, on this topic.

8. What is the current status of the project and what are the next steps?

We are releasing this week a first demo of our player for people to try out on Twitter and share their feedback. In the next months, we’ll release a web-based UI for people to upload content into the system and browse others’. You could call it a portal, but it’s more of an entry point, and anyone can from then on build their own applications with native p2p video, besides integrating our player into channels or platforms in an experimental manner. The protocol is being worked on all along the way, and our target is to reach main net still in 2018.

Of course, streaming is non-incentivised and tokens have no real utility value until then! The journey to achieve real decentralisation is long and exciting. We are constantly hiring people, and our Early Uploaders program is open for creators who want to let their content be shared over Paratii, in an experimental mode still.

Felipe goes over Chris Burniske’s token valuation model @ WeWork Faria Lima, in São Paulo.

9. How do you see Paratii as a new player in the global scenario for blockchain and decentralized networks? What is your ambition for the future?

I see it as a semi-invisible entity that’s going to help deliver a great part of serverless video over the distributed web, and bring decentralization, not only cryptocurrencies, to the masses. Everyone watches videos on the internet. Few would bother earning money by doing so, if that happens in a way you can barely notice, and cash-out automatically at the end of each month, or weekend binge-watching session. If that’s combined with a payment system that gives value, and not a burden, back to content creators, it’s a win-win. That’s what we’re building. The ambition is for it to become populated with globally relevant content and gradually progress towards decentralised governance, so that creators from generations to come can benefit from a story-sharing system that’s public, self-scalable and economically sustainable.

Felipe can be found on Twitter (@felipether) or here on Medium. Paratii is building a network for curation and monetisation of videos on IPFS and Ethereum.

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Lidia Zuin

Lidia Zuin

Brazilian journalist, MA in Semiotics and PhD in Visual Arts. Researcher and essayist. Science fiction writer.