Work Urbit Branding & technical writing

Urbit

I partnered with the director of the Urbit Foundation to develop the open-source project's first branding and messaging strategy to meet a mission-critical new demand: Make it easier for users and developers to commit to the unique, esoteric, and obscure world of Urbit.

Copywriting and content work for Urbit

Challenge

Urbit is a unique entity that means a lot of different things to different people:

  • Vision for the future of personal computing
  • Open-source project with more than a decade of development history
  • A peer-to-peer (P2P) network for building communities and subcultures
  • Portable and permanent online identity system
  • Computing kernel and programming language in just 30,000 lines of code
  • Escape from computing's middlemen, who are driven by profit extraction and vacuuming up user data
  • ... and more

The difficult work of unifying all those beliefs and demands falls on Josh Lehman, director of the Urbit Foundation. Through the Foundation, he's responsible for marketing Urbit, growing and onboarding the userbase, and nurturing new developers onto Hoon, Urbit's general-purpose programming language, through educational content.

Creating a branding and messaging strategy that fits all these disparate users, needs, and hopes is no easy task.

That's when Josh reached out to me. He'd been chatting with a few highfalutin New York branding agencies, and while he liked their vision, they were too strategy-focused. To meet looming deadlines, like Urbit's NYC Week and Assembly 2022, Josh needed a copywriter who could immediately execute on new brand messaging, web copywriting, and onboarding content.

I launched a new VPS, installed Urbit, launched my ship, and got to work on Urbit's branding strategy.

Solution

I sent a survey to current Urbit users to collect Voice of Customer data and jumped straight into my research on who uses Urbit and what they love about it.

I understood that Urbit couldn't get away with multiple brand messaging strategies—one for users, one for developers, one for operators, and so on. Everyone on Urbit is a user first, having shared the exciting and often challenging process of acquiring an identity, launching a ship, and connecting to the P2P network for the first time.

The project demands a singular vision, one that's rooted in technological advantage and specific enough to generate commitment from users of all stripes, who then evolve into developers, operators, contributors, and more. We wanted to represent the idea that Urbit aims to do nothing less than be the last computer you ever need to buy, set up, maintain, and worry about.

This new vision: Urbit is your Final Computer.

I applied my COMMIT Framework, starting with a brand story and branching off into personalized messages for each type of Urbit user.

With a solidified brand messaging strategy, I could then collaborate with the Foundation's team on a complete rewrite of Urbit's getting started onboarding material, clarifying each step of the convoluted process (they're the first to admit as much!) to guide users of various skills and ambitions onto the Urbit network for the first time.

We deployed the new onboarding material just a week before Urbit NYC Week, a decentralized gathering for anyone interested in using or building on Urbit, which gave Josh the confidence and tactical advantage of brand messaging that's already deployed on Urbit's most important content.

View the results: Getting Started on Urbit

Examples of commitment-generating branding & copy

  • Urbit is smart people, a permanent identity, and a vision for your Final Computer.

  • Mission: To build a modern operating system based on identity and peer-to-peer networking that helps users own their relationships, their interactions, and their data.

  • Sample web copy:

    Urbit is a new computing stack based on you owning your networks, identity, and data.

    With Urbit, you can discover brilliant subcultures, develop peer-to-peer apps without boundaries or middlemen, and contribute meaningfully to your Final Computer — a vision of personal computing as it always should have been.

    Enter your Urbit today.

    Whether you’re a person in search of community, a developer in search of a new challenge, or something we’ve never seen before, Urbit has a space for you.

    Develop on a personal OS designed from scratch to be peer-to-peer first.

    Urbit is the only OS, programming language, and deployment network that values getting smaller and getting out of your way. Your code, your ID, and the Urbit kernel reveal an entire network of audaciously smart people.

  • Sample onboarding copy:

    Why Urbit?

    As a user, you can explore the people, community, and sheer novelty of the Urbit ecosystem while owning your entire experience. Your data, your messages, your apps.

    As a developer, you can now build apps, a protocol for a whole suite of apps, or an entire online subculture, and distribute your work directly to your users' operating systems. No middlemen, no MEGACORPs, and no lock-in.

    Someone once said, "All the smart people I know disappear into Urbit." If you're smart, you will too — not just installing and running Urbit, but taking the first step toward deploying your Final Computer.