More on Entrepreneurship/Creators
1 year ago
10 Crazy Useful Free Websites No One Told You About But You Needed
The internet is a massive information resource. With so much stuff, it's easy to forget about useful websites. Here are five essential websites you may not have known about.
Companies.tools are what successful startups employ. This website offers a curated selection of design, research, coding, support, and feedback resources. Ct has the latest app development platform and greatest client feedback method.
2. Excel Formula Bot
Excel Formula Bot can help if you forget a formula. Formula Bot uses AI to convert text instructions into Excel formulas, so you don't have to remember them.
Just tell the Bot what to do, and it will do it. Excel Formula Bot can calculate sales tax and vacation days. When you're stuck, let the Bot help.
TypeLit helps you improve your typing abilities while reading great literature.
TypeLit.io lets you type any book or dozens of preset classics. TypeLit provides real-time feedback on accuracy and speed.
Goals and progress can be tracked. Why not improve your typing and learn great literature with TypeLit?
4. Calm Schedule
Finding a meeting time that works for everyone is difficult. Personal and business calendars might be difficult to coordinate.
Synchronize your two calendars to save time and avoid problems. You may avoid searching through many calendars for conflicts and keep your personal information secret. Having one source of truth for personal and work occasions will help you never miss another appointment.
myNoise makes the outside world quieter. myNoise is the right noise for a noisy office or busy street.
If you can't locate the right noise, make it. MyNoise unlocks the world. Shut out distractions. Thank your ears.
Professional videos require directors, filmmakers, editors, and animators. Now, thanks to AI, you can generate high-quality videos without video editing experience.
AI avatars are crucial. You can design a personalized avatar using a web-based software like synthesia.io. Our avatars can lip-sync in over 60 languages, so you can make worldwide videos. There's an AI avatar for every video goal.
Not free. Amazing service, though.
Have you shot a wonderful photo just to notice something in the background? You may have a beautiful headshot but wish to erase an imperfection.
Cleanup.pictures removes undesirable objects from photos. Our algorithms will eliminate the selected object.
Cleanup.pictures can help you obtain the ideal shot every time. Next time you take images, let Cleanup.pictures fix any flaws.
8. PDF24 Tools
Editing a PDF can be a pain. Most of us don't know Adobe Acrobat's functionalities. Why buy something you'll rarely use? Better options exist.
PDF24 is an online PDF editor that's free and subscription-free. Rotate, merge, split, compress, and convert PDFs in your browser. PDF24 makes document signing easy.
Upload your document, sign it (or generate a digital signature), and download it. It's easy and free. PDF24 is a free alternative to pricey PDF editing software.
9. Class Central
Finding online classes is much easier. Class Central has classes from Harvard, Stanford, Coursera, Udemy, and Google, Amazon, etc. in one spot.
Whether you want to acquire a new skill or increase your knowledge, you'll find something. New courses bring variety.
Foreign travel offers countless transport alternatives. How do you get from A to B? It’s easy!
Rome2rio will show you the best method to get there, including which mode of transport is ideal.
Do you know any free, useful websites?
1 year ago
In November, I made an effort to pitch 10 brands per day. Here's what I discovered.
I pitched 10 brands per workday for a total of 200.
How did I do?
It was difficult.
I've never pitched so much.
What did this challenge teach me?
the superiority of quality over quantity
When you need help, outsource
Don't disregard burnout in order to complete a challenge because it exists.
First, pitching brands for brand deals requires quality. Find firms that align with your brand to expose to your audience.
If you associate with any company, you'll lose audience loyalty. I didn't lose sight of that, but I couldn't resist finishing the task.
Delegating work to teammates is effective.
I wish I'd done it.
Three people can pitch 200 companies a month significantly faster than one.
One person does research, one to two do outreach, and one to two do follow-up and negotiating.
In 2022, I'll outsource everything.
I felt this, so I slowed down at the end of the month.
Thanksgiving week in November was slow.
I was buying and decorating for Christmas. First time putting up outdoor holiday lights was fun.
Much was happening.
I'm not perfect.
I'm being honest.
Less than 50 brands pitched.
Result: A deal with 3 brands.
I hoped for 4 brands with reaching out to 200 companies, so three with under 50 is wonderful.
That’s a 6% conversion rate!
I needed 2%.
Here's a screenshot from one of the deals I booked.
These companies fit my company well. Each campaign is different, but I've booked $2,450 in brand work with a couple of pending transactions for December and January.
$2,450 in brand work booked!
How did I do? You tell me.
Is this something you’d try yourself?
1 year ago
Facebook is going away. Here are two explanations for why it hasn't been replaced yet.
And tips for anyone trying.
We see the same story every few years.
BREAKING NEWS: [Platform X] launched a social network. With Facebook's reputation down, the new startup bets millions will switch.
Despite the excitement surrounding each new platform (Diaspora, Ello, Path, MeWe, Minds, Vero, etc.), no major exodus occurred.
Snapchat and TikTok attracted teens with fresh experiences (ephemeral messaging and rapid-fire videos). These features aren't Facebook, even if Facebook replicated them.
Facebook's core is simple: you publish items (typically text/images) and your friends (generally people you know IRL) can discuss them.
It's cool. Sometimes I don't want to, but sh*t. I like it.
Because, well, I like many folks I've met. I enjoy keeping in touch with them and their banter.
I dislike Facebook's corporation. I've been cautiously optimistic whenever a Facebook-killer surfaced.
Why? Two causes, I think:
People couldn't switch quickly enough, which is reason #1
Your buddies make a social network social.
Facebook started in self-contained communities (college campuses) then grew outward. But a new platform can't.
If we're expected to leave Facebook, we want to know that most of our friends will too.
Most Facebook-killers had bottlenecks. You have to waitlist or jump through hoops (e.g. setting up a server).
Same outcome. Upload. Chirp.
After a week or two of silence, individuals returned to Facebook.
Reason #2: The fundamental experience was different.
Even when many of our friends joined in the first few weeks, it wasn't the same.
There were missing features or a different UX.
Want to reply with a meme? No photos in comments yet. (Trying!)
Want to tag a friend? Nope, sorry. 2019!
Want your friends to see your post? You must post to all your friends' servers. Good luck!
It's difficult to introduce a platform with 100% of the same features as one that's been there for 20 years, yet customers want a core experience.
If you can't, they'll depart.
The causes that led to the causes
Having worked on software teams for 14+ years, I'm not surprised by these challenges. They are a natural development of a few tech sector meta-problems:
Lean startup methodology
Silicon Valley worships lean startup. It's a way of developing software that involves testing a stripped-down version with a limited number of people before selecting what to build.
Billion people use Facebook's functions. They aren't tested. It must work right away*
*This may seem weird to software people, but it's how non-software works! You can't sell a car without wheels.
Startup entrepreneurs build new things, not copies. I understand. Reinventing the wheel is boring.
We know what works. Different experiences raise adoption friction. Once millions have transferred, more features (and a friendlier UX) can be implemented.
3. Cost scaling
True. Building a product that can sustain hundreds of millions of users in weeks is expensive and complex.
Your lifeboats must have the same capacity as the ship you're evacuating. It's required.
4. Pure ideologies
People who work on Facebook-alternatives are (understandably) critical of Facebook.
They build an open-source, fully-distributed, data-portable, interface-customizable, offline-capable, censorship-proof platform.
Prioritizing these aims can prevent replicating the straightforward experience users expect. Github, not Facebook, is for techies only.
What about the business plan, though?
Facebook-killer attempts have followed three models.
Utilize VC funding to increase your user base, then monetize them later. (If you do this, you won't kill Facebook; instead, Facebook will become you.)
Users must pay to utilize it. (This causes a huge bottleneck and slows the required quick expansion, preventing it from seeming like a true social network.)
Make it a volunteer-run, open-source endeavor that is free. (This typically denotes that something is cumbersome, difficult to operate, and is only for techies.)
Wikipedia is a fourth way.
Wikipedia is one of the most popular websites and a charity. No ads. Donations support them.
A Facebook-killer managed by a good team may gather millions (from affluent contributors and the crowd) for their initial phase of development. Then it might sustain on regular donations, ethical transactions (e.g. fees on commerce, business sites, etc.), and government grants/subsidies (since it would essentially be a public utility).
When you're not aiming to make investors rich, it's remarkable how little money you need.
If you want to build a Facebook competitor, follow these tips:
Drop the lean startup philosophy. Wait until you have a finished product before launching. Build it, thoroughly test it for bugs, and then release it.
Delay innovating. Wait till millions of people have switched before introducing your great new features. Make it nearly identical for now.
Spend money climbing. Make sure that guests can arrive as soon as they are invited. Never keep them waiting. Make things easy for them.
Make it accessible to all. Even if doing so renders it less philosophically pure, it shouldn't require technical expertise to utilize.
Constitute a nonprofit. Additionally, develop community ownership structures. Profit maximization is not the only strategy for preserving valued assets.
Nobody has killed Facebook, but Facebook is killing itself.
The startup is burying the newsfeed to become a TikTok clone. Meta itself seems to be ditching the platform for the metaverse.
I wish I was happy, but I'm not. I miss (understandably) removed friends' postings and remarks. It could be a ghost town in a few years. My dance moves aren't TikTok-worthy.
Who will lead? It's time to develop a social network for the people.
Greetings if you're working on it. I'm not a company founder, but I like to help hard-working folks.
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Scott Duke Kominers
1 year ago
NFT Creators Go Creative Commons Zero (cc0)
On January 1, "Public Domain Day," thousands of creative works immediately join the public domain. The original creator or copyright holder loses exclusive rights to reproduce, adapt, or publish the work, and anybody can use it. It happens with movies, poems, music, artworks, books (where creative rights endure 70 years beyond the author's death), and sometimes source code.
Public domain creative works open the door to new uses. 400,000 sound recordings from before 1923, including Winnie-the-Pooh, were released this year. With most of A.A. Milne's 1926 Winnie-the-Pooh characters now available, we're seeing innovative interpretations Milne likely never planned. The ancient hyphenated version of the honey-loving bear is being adapted for a horror movie: "Winnie-the-Pooh: Blood and Honey"... with Pooh and Piglet as the baddies.
Counterintuitively, experimenting and recombination can occasionally increase IP value. Open source movements allow the public to build on (or fork and duplicate) existing technologies. Permissionless innovation helps Android, Linux, and other open source software projects compete. Crypto's success at attracting public development is also due to its support of open source and "remix culture," notably in NFT forums.
NFT projects use several IP strategies to establish brands, communities, and content. Some preserve regular IP protections; others offer NFT owners the opportunity to innovate on connected IP; yet others have removed copyright and other IP safeguards.
By using the "Creative Commons Zero" (cc0) license, artists can intentionally select for "no rights reserved." This option permits anyone to benefit from derivative works without legal repercussions. There's still a lot of confusion between copyrights and NFTs, so nothing here should be considered legal, financial, tax, or investment advice. Check out this post for an overview of copyright vulnerabilities with NFTs and how authors can protect owners' rights. This article focuses on cc0.
Nouns, a 2021 project, popularized cc0 for NFTs. Others followed, including: A Common Place, Anonymice, Blitmap, Chain Runners, Cryptoadz, CryptoTeddies, Goblintown, Gradis, Loot, mfers, Mirakai, Shields, and Terrarium Club are cc0 projects.
Popular crypto artist XCOPY licensed their 1-of-1 NFT artwork "Right-click and Save As Guy" under cc0 in January, exactly one month after selling it. cc0 has spawned many derivatives.
"Right-click Save As Guy" by XCOPY (1)/derivative works (2)
XCOPY said Monday he would apply cc0 to "all his existing art." "We haven't seen a cc0 summer yet, but I think it's approaching," said the artist. - predicting a "DeFi summer" in 2020, when decentralized finance gained popularity.
Why do so many NFT authors choose "no rights"?
Promoting expansions of the original project to create a more lively and active community is one rationale. This makes sense in crypto, where many value open sharing and establishing community.
Creativity depends on cultural significance. NFTs may allow verifiable ownership of any digital asset, regardless of license, but cc0 jumpstarts "meme-ability" by actively, not passively, inviting derivative works. As new derivatives are made and shared, attention might flow back to the original, boosting its reputation. This may inspire new interpretations, leading in a flywheel effect where each derivative adds to the original's worth - similar to platform network effects, where platforms become more valuable as more users join them.
cc0 licence allows creators "seize production memes."
Physical items are also using cc0 NFT assets, thus it's not just a digital phenomenon. The Nouns Vision initiative turned the square-framed spectacles shown on each new NounsDAO NFT ("one per day, forever") into luxury sunglasses. Blitmap's pixel-art has been used on shoes, apparel, and caps. In traditional IP regimes, a single owner controls creation, licensing, and production.
The physical "blitcap" (3rd level) is a descendant of the trait in the cc0 Chain Runners collection (2nd), which uses the "logo" from cc0 Blitmap (1st)! The Logo is Blitmap token #84 and has been used as a trait in various collections. The "Dom Rose" is another popular token. These homages reference Blitmap's influence as a cc0 leader, as one of the earliest NFT projects to proclaim public domain intents. A new collection, Citizens of Tajigen, emerged last week with a Blitcap characteristic.
These derivatives can be a win-win for everyone, not just the original inventors, especially when using NFT assets to establish unique brands. As people learn about the derivative, they may become interested in the original. If you see someone wearing Nouns glasses on the street (or in a Super Bowl ad), you may desire a pair, but you may also be interested in buying an original NounsDAO NFT or related derivative.
Blitmap Logo Hat (1), Chain Runners #780 ft. Hat (2), and Blitmap Original "Logo #87" (3)
Co-creating open source
NFTs' power comes from smart contract technology's intrinsic composability. Many smart contracts can be integrated or stacked to generate richer applications.
"Money Legos" describes how decentralized finance ("DeFi") smart contracts interconnect to generate new financial use cases. Yearn communicates with MakerDAO's stablecoin $DAI and exchange liquidity provider Curve by calling public smart contract methods. NFTs and their underlying smart contracts can operate as the base-layer framework for recombining and interconnecting culture and creativity.
cc0 gives an NFT's enthusiast community authority to develop new value layers whenever, wherever, and however they wish.
Multiple cc0 projects are playable characters in HyperLoot, a Loot Project knockoff.
Open source and Linux's rise are parallels. When the internet was young, Microsoft dominated the OS market with Windows. Linux (and its developer Linus Torvalds) championed a community-first mentality, freely available the source code without restrictions. This led to developers worldwide producing new software for Linux, from web servers to databases. As people (and organizations) created world-class open source software, Linux's value proposition grew, leading to explosive development and industry innovation. According to Truelist, Linux powers 96.3% of the top 1 million web servers and 85% of smartphones.
With cc0 licensing empowering NFT community builders, one might hope for long-term innovation. Combining cc0 with NFTs "turns an antagonistic game into a co-operative one," says NounsDAO cofounder punk4156. It's important on several levels. First, decentralized systems from open source to crypto are about trust and coordination, therefore facilitating cooperation is crucial. Second, the dynamics of this cooperation work well in the context of NFTs because giving people ownership over their digital assets allows them to internalize the results of co-creation through the value that accrues to their assets and contributions, which incentivizes them to participate in co-creation in the first place.
Licensed to create
If cc0 projects are open source "applications" or "platforms," then NFT artwork, metadata, and smart contracts provide the "user interface" and the underlying blockchain (e.g., Ethereum) is the "operating system." For these apps to attain Linux-like potential, more infrastructure services must be established and made available so people may take advantage of cc0's remixing capabilities.
These services are developing. Zora protocol and OpenSea's open source Seaport protocol enable open, permissionless NFT marketplaces. A pixel-art-rendering engine was just published on-chain to the Ethereum blockchain and integrated into OKPC and ICE64. Each application improves blockchain's "out-of-the-box" capabilities, leading to new apps created from the improved building blocks.
Web3 developer growth is at an all-time high, yet it's still a small fraction of active software developers globally. As additional developers enter the field, prospective NFT projects may find more creative and infrastructure Legos for cc0 and beyond.
Electric Capital Developer Report (2021), p. 122
Growth requires composability. Users can easily integrate digital assets developed on public standards and compatible infrastructure into other platforms. The Loot Project is one of the first to illustrate decentralized co-creation, worldbuilding, and more in NFTs. This example was low-fi or "incomplete" aesthetically, providing room for imagination and community co-creation.
Loot began with a series of Loot bag NFTs, each listing eight "adventure things" in white writing on a black backdrop (such as Loot Bag #5726's "Katana, Divine Robe, Great Helm, Wool Sash, Divine Slippers, Chain Gloves, Amulet, Gold Ring"). Dom Hofmann's free Loot bags served as a foundation for the community.
Several projects have begun metaphorical (lore) and practical (game development) world-building in a short time, with artists contributing many variations to the collective "Lootverse." They've produced games (Realms & The Crypt), characters (Genesis Project, Hyperloot, Loot Explorers), storytelling initiatives (Banners, OpenQuill), and even infrastructure (The Rift).
Why cc0 and composability? Because consumers own and control Loot bags, they may use them wherever they choose by connecting their crypto wallets. This allows users to participate in multiple derivative projects, such as Genesis Adventurers, whose characters appear in many others — creating a decentralized franchise not owned by any one corporation.
Genesis Project's Genesis Adventurer (1) with HyperLoot (2) and Loot Explorer (3) versions
When to go cc0
There are several IP development strategies NFT projects can use. When it comes to cc0, it’s important to be realistic. The public domain won't make a project a runaway success just by implementing the license. cc0 works well for NFT initiatives that can develop a rich, enlarged ecosystem.
Many of the most successful cc0 projects have introduced flexible intellectual property. The Nouns brand is as obvious for a beer ad as for real glasses; Loot bags are simple primitives that make sense in all adventure settings; and the Goblintown visual style looks good on dwarfs, zombies, and cranky owls as it does on Val Kilmer.
The ideal cc0 NFT project gives builders the opportunity to add value:
vertically, by stacking new content and features directly on top of the original cc0 assets (for instance, as with games built on the Loot ecosystem, among others), and
horizontally, by introducing distinct but related intellectual property that helps propagate the original cc0 project’s brand (as with various Goblintown derivatives, among others).
These actions can assist cc0 NFT business models. Because cc0 NFT projects receive royalties from secondary sales, third-party extensions and derivatives can boost demand for the original assets.
Using cc0 license lowers friction that could hinder brand-reinforcing extensions or lead to them bypassing the original. Robbie Broome recently argued (in the context of his cc0 project A Common Place) that giving away his IP to cc0 avoids bad rehashes down the line. If UrbanOutfitters wanted to put my design on a tee, they could use the actual work instead of hiring a designer. CC0 can turn competition into cooperation.
Community agreement about core assets' value and contribution can help cc0 projects. Cohesion and engagement are key. Using the above examples: Developers can design adventure games around whatever themes and item concepts they desire, but many choose Loot bags because of the Lootverse's community togetherness. Flipmap shared half of its money with the original Blitmap artists in acknowledgment of that project's core role in the community. This can build a healthy culture within a cc0 project ecosystem. Commentator NiftyPins said it was smart to acknowledge the people that constructed their universe. Many OG Blitmap artists have popped into the Flipmap discord to share information.
cc0 isn't a one-size-fits-all answer; NFTs formed around well-established brands may prefer more restrictive licenses to preserve their intellectual property and reinforce exclusivity. cc0 has some superficial similarities to permitting NFT owners to market the IP connected with their NFTs (à la Bored Ape Yacht Club), but there is a significant difference: cc0 holders can't exclude others from utilizing the same IP. This can make it tougher for holders to develop commercial brands on cc0 assets or offer specific rights to partners. Holders can still introduce enlarged intellectual property (such as backstories or derivatives) that they control.
Blockchain technologies and the crypto ethos are decentralized and open-source. This makes it logical for crypto initiatives to build around cc0 content models, which build on the work of the Creative Commons foundation and numerous open source pioneers.
NFT creators that choose cc0 must select how involved they want to be in building the ecosystem. Some cc0 project leaders, like Chain Runners' developers, have kept building on top of the initial cc0 assets, creating an environment derivative projects can plug into. Dom Hofmann stood back from Loot, letting the community lead. (Dom is also working on additional cc0 NFT projects for the company he formed to build Blitmap.) Other authors have chosen out totally, like sartoshi, who announced his exit from the cc0 project he founded, mfers, and from the NFT area by publishing a final edition suitably named "end of sartoshi" and then deactivating his Twitter account. A multi-signature wallet of seven mfers controls the project's smart contract.
cc0 licensing allows a robust community to co-create in ways that benefit all members, regardless of original creators' continuous commitment. We foresee more organized infrastructure and design patterns as NFT matures. Like open source software, value capture frameworks may see innovation. (We could imagine a variant of the "Sleepycat license," which requires commercial software to pay licensing fees when embedding open source components.) As creators progress the space, we expect them to build unique rights and licensing strategies. cc0 allows NFT producers to bootstrap ideas that may take off.
Jano le Roux
1 year ago
Here's What I Learned After 30 Days Analyzing Apple's Microcopy
Move people with tiny words.
Apple fanboy here.
Macs are awesome.
Their iPhones rock.
$19 cloths are great.
$999 stands are amazing.
I love Apple's microcopy even more.
It's like the marketing goddess bit into the Apple logo and blessed the world with microcopy.
I took on a 30-day micro-stalking mission.
Every time I caught myself wasting time on YouTube, I had to visit Apple’s website to learn the secrets of the marketing goddess herself.
We've learned. Golden apples are calling.
Cut the friction
Benefit-first, not commitment-first.
Brands lose customers through friction.
Most brands don't think like customers.
Brands want sales.
Brands want newsletter signups.
Here's their microcopy:
“Buy it now.”
“Sign up for our newsletter.”
Both are difficult. They ask for big commitments.
People are simple creatures. Want pleasure without commitment.
Apple nails this.
So, instead of highlighting the commitment, they highlight the benefit of the commitment.
Saving on the latest iPhone sounds easier than buying it. Everyone saves, but not everyone buys.
A subtle change in framing reduces friction.
Apple eliminates customer objections to reduce friction.
Less customer friction means simpler processes.
Apple's copy expertly reassures customers about shipping fees and not being home. Apple assures customers that returning faulty products is easy.
Apple knows that talking to a real person is the best way to reduce friction and improve their copy.
Learn about fine rhyme.
Poets make things beautiful with rhyme.
Copywriters use rhyme to stand out.
Apple’s copywriters have mastered the art of corporate rhyme.
Two techniques are used.
1. Perfect rhyme
Here, rhymes are identical.
2. Imperfect rhyme
Here, rhyming sounds vary.
Apple prioritizes meaning over rhyme.
Apple never forces rhymes that don't fit.
It fits so well that the copy seems accidental.
Alliteration always entertains.
Alliteration repeats initial sounds in nearby words.
Apple's copy uses alliteration like no other brand I've seen to create a rhyming effect or make the text more fun to read.
For example, in the sentence "Sam saw seven swans swimming," the initial "s" sound is repeated five times. This creates a pleasing rhythm.
Microcopy overuse is like pouring ketchup on a Michelin-star meal.
Alliteration creates a memorable phrase in copywriting. It's subtler than rhyme, and most people wouldn't notice; it simply resonates.
I love how Apple uses alliteration and contrast between "wonders" and "ease".
Assonance, or repeating vowels, isn't Apple's thing.
You ≠ Hero, Customer = Hero
Your brand shouldn't be the hero.
Because they'll be using your product or service, your customer should be the hero of your copywriting. With your help, they should feel like they can achieve their goals.
I love how Apple emphasizes what you can do with the machine in this microcopy.
It's divine how they position their tools as sidekicks to help below.
This one takes the cake:
Conversational copy engages.
Excellent copy Like sharing gum with a friend.
This helps build audience trust.
Apple does this by using natural connecting words like "so" and phrases like "But that's not all."
The mother of all microcopy techniques.
A snowclone uses an existing phrase or sentence to create a new one. The new phrase or sentence uses the same structure but different words.
It’s usually a well know saying like:
To be or not to be.
This becomes a formula:
To _ or not to _.
Copywriters fill in the blanks with cause-related words. Example:
To click or not to click.
Apple turns "survival of the fittest" into "arrival of the fittest."
It's unexpected and surprises the reader.
So this was fun.
But my fun has just begun.
Microcopy is 21st-century poetry.
I came as an Apple fanboy.
I leave as an Apple fanatic.
Now I’m off to find an apple tree.
Cause you know how it goes.
(Apples, trees, etc.)
This post is a summary. Original post available here.
1 year ago
Hate NFTs? I must break some awful news to you...
If you think NFTs are awful, check out the art market.
The fervor around NFTs has subsided in recent months due to the crypto market crash and the media's short attention span. They were all anyone could talk about earlier this spring. Last semester, when passions were high and field luminaries were discussing "slurp juices," I asked my students and students from over 20 other universities what they thought of NFTs.
According to many, NFTs were either tasteless pyramid schemes or a new way for artists to make money. NFTs contributed to the climate crisis and harmed the environment, but so did air travel, fast fashion, and smartphones. Some students complained that NFTs were cheap, tasteless, algorithmically generated schlock, but others asked how this was different from other art.
I'm not sure what I expected, but the intensity of students' reactions surprised me. They had strong, emotional opinions about a technology I'd always considered administrative. NFTs address ownership and accounting, like most crypto/blockchain projects.
Art markets can be irrational, arbitrary, and subject to the same scams and schemes as any market. And maybe a few shenanigans that are unique to the art world.
The Fairness Question
Fairness, a deflating moral currency, was the general sentiment (the less of it in circulation, the more ardently we clamor for it.) These students, almost all of whom are artists, complained to the mismatch between the quality of the work in some notable NFT collections and the excessive amounts these items were fetching on the market. They can sketch a Bored Ape or Lazy Lion in their sleep. Why should they buy ramen with school loans while certain swindlers get rich?
I understand students. Art markets are unjust. They can be irrational, arbitrary, and governed by chance and circumstance, like any market. And art-world shenanigans.
Almost every mainstream critique leveled against NFTs applies just as easily to art markets
Over 50% of artworks in circulation are fake, say experts. Sincere art collectors and institutions are upset by the prevalence of fake goods on the market. Not everyone. Wealthy people and companies use art as investments. They can use cultural institutions like museums and galleries to increase the value of inherited art collections. People sometimes buy artworks and use family ties or connections to museums or other cultural taste-makers to hype the work in their collection, driving up the price and allowing them to sell for a profit. Money launderers can disguise capital flows by using market whims, hype, and fluctuating asset prices.
Almost every mainstream critique leveled against NFTs applies just as easily to art markets.
Art has always been this way. Edward Kienholz's 1989 print series satirized art markets. He stamped 395 identical pieces of paper from $1 to $395. Each piece was initially priced as indicated. Kienholz was joking about a strange feature of art markets: once the last print in a series sells for $395, all previous works are worth at least that much. The entire series is valued at its highest auction price. I don't know what a Kienholz print sells for today (inquire with the gallery), but it's more than $395.
I love Lee Lozano's 1969 "Real Money Piece." Lozano put cash in various denominations in a jar in her apartment and gave it to visitors. She wrote, "Offer guests coffee, diet pepsi, bourbon, half-and-half, ice water, grass, and money." "Offer real money as candy."
Lee Lozano kept track of who she gave money to, how much they took, if any, and how they reacted to the offer of free money without explanation. Diverse reactions. Some found it funny, others found it strange, and others didn't care. Lozano rarely says:
Apr 17 Keith Sonnier refused, later screws lid very tightly back on. Apr 27 Kaltenbach takes all the money out of the jar when I offer it, examines all the money & puts it all back in jar. Says he doesn’t need money now. Apr 28 David Parson refused, laughing. May 1 Warren C. Ingersoll refused. He got very upset about my “attitude towards money.” May 4 Keith Sonnier refused, but said he would take money if he needed it which he might in the near future. May 7 Dick Anderson barely glances at the money when I stick it under his nose and says “Oh no thanks, I intend to earn it on my own.” May 8 Billy Bryant Copley didn’t take any but then it was sort of spoiled because I had told him about this piece on the phone & he had time to think about it he said.
Smart Contracts (smart as in fair, not smart as in Blockchain)
Cornell University's Cheryl Finley has done a lot of research on secondary art markets. I first learned about her research when I met her at the University of Florida's Harn Museum, where she spoke about smart contracts (smart as in fair, not smart as in Blockchain) and new protocols that could help artists who are often left out of the economic benefits of their own work, including women and women of color.
Her talk included findings from her ArtNet op-ed with Lauren van Haaften-Schick, Christian Reeder, and Amy Whitaker.
NFTs allow us to think about and hack on formal contractual relationships outside a system of laws that is currently not set up to service our community.
The ArtNet article The Recent Sale of Amy Sherald's ‘Welfare Queen' Symbolizes the Urgent Need for Resale Royalties and Economic Equity for Artists discussed Sherald's 2012 portrait of a regal woman in a purple dress wearing a sparkling crown and elegant set of pearls against a vibrant red background.
Amy Sherald sold "Welfare Queen" to Princeton professor Imani Perry. Sherald agreed to a payment plan to accommodate Perry's budget.
Amy Sherald rose to fame for her 2016 portrait of Michelle Obama and her full-length portrait of Breonna Taylor, one of the most famous works of the past decade.
As is common, Sherald's rising star drove up the price of her earlier works. Perry's "Welfare Queen" sold for $3.9 million in 2021.
Imani Perry's early investment paid off big-time. Amy Sherald, whose work directly increased the painting's value and who was on an artist's shoestring budget when she agreed to sell "Welfare Queen" in 2012, did not see any of the 2021 auction money. Perry and the auction house got that money.
Sherald sold her Breonna Taylor portrait to the Smithsonian and Louisville's Speed Art Museum to fund a $1 million scholarship. This is a great example of what an artist can do for the community if they can amass wealth through their work.
NFTs haven't solved all of the art market's problems — fakes, money laundering, market manipulation — but they didn't create them. Blockchain and NFTs are credited with making these issues more transparent. More ideas emerge daily about what a smart contract should do for artists.
NFTs are a copyright solution. They allow us to hack formal contractual relationships outside a law system that doesn't serve our community.
Amy Sherald shows the good smart contracts can do (as in, well-considered, self-determined contracts, not necessarily blockchain contracts.) Giving back to our community, deciding where and how our work can be sold or displayed, and ensuring artists share in the equity of our work and the economy our labor creates.