I got to talk to Varun! Varun is an incredible artist and would have been interesting to talk with him about literally anything, but since he’s dipped numerous toes into the world of NFTs, I wanted to chat with him about that in conjunction with his own art and other artists he’s a fan of.

Time Jumps

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[Radio channel adjustment]

Announcer: Today, on CodePen Radio.

Chris Coyier: Hello, everybody. Time for another CodePen Radio. It's 364 if you're keeping count.

I have an incredible creative technologist on here, and we're going to get into what his work is like and even some NFT stuff, believe it or not. Finally, I got somebody to talk to about all this stuff because it's just so interesting, somebody that's perhaps even past the point of dabbling a little bit. Although, we'll see if you agree, Varun Vachhar.

How did I do? Fix me on the pronunciation. I should have asked you before the show started.

Varun Vachhar: Thanks, Chris. Yeah. Not bad. I go by "va-roon vah-cher."

Chris: Well, thanks so much for coming on. I've been asking this of guests of the show. Send me some work that you've done that you just think is interesting and have something to say about, which gives us a nice framework for the show. You generously did that, and so there are all kinds of interesting work.

You know I've seen a lot of this work just because you're around the community and are public about what you do and use it as a vehicle for teaching other people stuff. Hats off to you. I think that's awesome when artists take that next step and teach it as well as do it.

Your work, not only are you prolific, but the style of work really changes. It looks like you're constantly exploring. It looks like your work, but it also is not like everything is just a variation on one single theme. There's stuff that looks vector-y. There's stuff that looks gradient-y and not at all vector-y. There's 3D stuff and 2D stuff - all kinds of stuff. The work that you sent me is a nice cross-section of that, so I can't wait to get to it.

Then I'll stop talking in a minute; I promise. [Laughter] There are a lot of artists on CodePen, and when I get a chance to talk to them, I'm curious. Is there a bone in your body that wants to grab some of that art? Generative art is a whole subsect of the NFT world that wants to do that. The answer is almost invariably, "I'm keeping my eye on it. It looks interesting. There's new technology there," but have done nothing with it. But you have, and I even own one of your NFTs, so I know a little bit, and you know a lot more. So, I thought we could get into that in this episode.

I talked a whole lot. Thanks for being on. Can you tell me about you in your own words a little bit?


Varun: Yeah, certainly. For my day job, I actually am part of the DX team over at Chromatic, so contributing a little bit to Storybook and writing a lot about how teams can use Storybook.

But the way I sort of got into programming was through generative art, actually. I went to design school and one of the courses I took taught me processing. That's how I learned programming, and it's just been a thing that I've always been into.

Chris: Oh, processing like a framework--

Varun: Yeah, like the Java one back in the day.

Chris: Yeah. Yeah. Cool.

Varun: Yeah.

Chris: Wow! You went to school for the thing that you do now. That's another rarity. [Laughter] That's cool. Where did you go to school?

Varun: Yeah, it's kind of weird. I started off in mechanical engineering. Then I went back to school for design, and then came out a programmer, which was kind of weird but it works.

Chris: It is a little weird. I'm glad there's at least some twist to it. That's good.

Varun: Yeah. Yeah.

Chris: I like that. I went to school for accounting and became an accountant. That's no good. We can't have that story.

Okay, so you're at Chromatic. Is Chromatic straight up behind Storybook? I see at the top it's like, "Join the team behind Storybook."

Varun: Yeah, I would say a lot of folks at Chromatic are part of the Storybook core team and definitely support it, but Chromatic is sort of another layer of testing that's built on top of Storybook, so it's primarily a visual regression testing tool that uses Storybook as the mechanism.

Chris: And has a proper business model, right? Storybook is open-source whereas Chromatic has some paid plans.

Varun: Exactly. Chromatic is a paid service. Yeah.

Chris: Right.

Varun: Yeah.

Chris: Right. Cool. Just like CodePen has free accounts and paid accounts.

Varun: Exactly. Yeah.


Chris: That's great. I'd love to just get into some of your work, though, just because we have such limited time on this show. We like to keep it around half an hour, and there's so much awesome work to talk about. One of them that you sent me was this one that I'd seen before called Infinite Pipes that looks to me vector-y. It looks like SVG. I don't know if it is or not, but it definitely has those crisp edges and generative. Would you say most or all of your work is generative?

Varun: I would say it's a mix. I definitely tend to do a lot of Web-based stuff, so sometimes it's just straight-up animation. CodePen was a big influence on that, just following people like Sarah Drasner, Rachel Smith, Chris Kattan. I definitely picked up a lot of straight-up animation techniques, but often I'll end up sort of mixing them with a little bit of generative art. I try to do more generative, but sometimes it's just hard to come up with a cool system.

Chris: [Laughter] Interesting. It seems like they just flow out of you. Yeah, tell me about the pipes, though. They look maze-like.


Varun: Yeah, totally. In this case, it's not SVG, although I do use SVG quite a bit. In this case, it's Canvas, so I love using this tool called Canvas Sketch, which is mostly you are using vanilla Canvas APIs to actually create the image. But it gives you the draw loop around it, some utilities for exporting out videos and things like that. But the actual--

Chris: Oh, nice.

Varun: The rendering mechanism is just straight up Canvas, so that's what I used here. Yeah, it is somewhat maze-like. It's a fairly straightforward system, I would say. Essentially, each little pipe you see there is just making turns on a grid. You take a step forward. Then maybe you turn left, turn right, and so on. Then it's just sort of oscillating back and forth in its path.

Then there are multiple layers to the pipe. There's an outer, a middle, and an inner. As you move around, they go back and forth. It makes for a pretty cool effect, I would say.

Chris: It does. Yeah, the fact that there's the little innie and the outtie brings a lot of flavor to this rather than it just being a solid worm or whatever. It's really cool.

I'm attracted to this one because it has that feel like, if I had all week, I could maybe do this. I like it when art has that, like, "Maybe I could." I'm sure there's a random number of pipes and the colors are randomized and the background is randomized. Certainly, how they turn and twist is randomized, and how long they are is randomized. Is randomized the right word?


Varun: Yeah, randomized is a really great way to describe it, I would say. Yeah, that's kind of the idea of generative art. You create a system. Every time you restart it, you pick a bunch of random numbers to feed into the system. Then the recipe is the same, but the number of pipes, the color palette, and their sizing, that might change over time.

Chris: That's great. As the artist, you're the cook. You're the recipe maker. [Laughter]

Varun: Totally. Totally.

Chris: Yeah. You can make generative art for any reason, right? It's pretty fun. There's lots of generative art on CodePen where you just land on the Pen, and it's kind of different every time you see it because they literally use math.random in client-side JavaScript, which is fun.

Sometimes, you see it with controls that you can control yourself. Rather than it be outside influence, it could be your influence. You pick the color. You pick how much stuff you want there to be. That's a neat way to approach it.

It just so happens that this concept of generative art lends itself pretty well to at least one -- I guess, as you put it -- a subsect of NFT land. There's a good amount of NFTs that are generative by nature, right? You set up a recipe, even perhaps having some of the elements of the recipe be more rare than others.

Varun: Mm-hmm.

Chris: Then mint them, so it's kind of like math.random, but as far as I looked into it, they almost give you a replacement method for math.random. It's like, "Use this instead," so that it's not entirely random. It's random based on a URL parameter such that it's repeatably random.


Varun: Yeah, exactly. With random generators, there is this concept of a seed. If you set the random seed to a particular value, even if you refresh the browser, it's going to pick the same random numbers over and over again, so you can sort of tie the randomness down to a particular version. That's exactly the mechanism that a lot of these platforms use.

When you mint an NFT, it generates a unique transaction idea, and that transaction ID is what's fed into the random generator as the seed. When it generates a version of the piece, it's tied to that particular transaction ID, so you can sort of go back to it. That's the version that you purchased.

Chris: Yeah, which makes sense. Right? It'll be a little weird to purchase a piece of art and refresh the browser window and it's a different piece of part than the one that you purchased. Right?

Varun: Exactly.

Chris: That would be not ideal. You want to buy the one that's like that because, in the case of these generative arts, people joke that it's a JPEG that you're buying. Well, it's not a JPEG in this case.

Varun: It's an actual website. Yeah.

Chris: Yeah, right. It's like the DOM, in a way, or a movie in some cases, right? I guess it depends on how you mint them and why. That's where my understanding starts to fall apart a little bit.


Varun: Yeah, totally. When I first started, it started off with people sharing images and videos and things like that. The cool thing is the generative community sort of focused on a more open-source platform and they could actually go in and make tweaks of the platform because it was just up on GitHub. Very quickly, they added support for SVGs, and people started creating, you know, using SAML to animate SVGs. Then eventually, it just got to the point, why don't we just let people update a zip file that's a website? That unlocked a whole bunch of new possibilities, for sure.

Chris: That's nice. What's in that zip file can be HTML, CSS, and stuff, right?

Varun: Yeah, it's kind of like when you upload something to Netlify. If you have a static site, anything you put in that -- it can't make any calls outside of what's in the folder, so you can't make an API request.

Chris: Oh.

Varun: But anything inside that could be images, could be JavaScript files, whatever you want.

Chris: Wow. Yeah, these little immutable chunks of isolation. Yeah, that's great. That's great.

You have links here to the NFT marketplace thing fxhash.xyz. That's the one I'm familiar with mostly because Marie, on our team, who has researched this to some degree and kind of helped me level up on it, was like, "This is the one where there are lots of CodePen people showing up."

Varun: Yeah.

Chris: I don't know what is attractive about it. A couple of things, I think. For one thing, it's based on Tezos, right? Did I say that right? Which is like a crypto coin that's not Bitcoin or Ethereum. It's totally different and is less ecologically damaging, as I understand it, and better in some other ways.


Varun: Yeah, absolutely. That was the crucial piece for me, too. I think most of the NFTs (when people talk about it) they're referring to stuff that is backed by Ethereum, which takes up a lot of energy to have every single transaction that you want to execute. I personally am not in favor of that.

Chris: Mm-hmm.

Varun: Very quickly, I discovered that there's this other cryptocurrency called Tezos, which is much more energy-efficient. It's kind of like the equivalent of tweeting something would be the same amount of energy that's required to mint an NFT, so I personally prefer to go towards things that are Tezos-based. Then fxhash is one of those platforms.

Unlike some of the other platforms, it was also an open platform by default. There are art blocks in the Ethereum community that does something similar, but you kind of have to go through an application process to get your artwork on there and allow folks to buy it.

Fxhash, on the other hand, was open from the beginning, so anyone could go in and create a piece of generative work and start sharing their work. I think that really attracted more of the Web community. Plus, being on Tezos and being a bit more energy conscious, I would say that's also in favor, for sure.

Chris: Yeah. That's funny. It reminds me of how CodePen has always been open and anybody can sign up and use it. But Dribbble wasn't in the early days. I'm sure you remember.

Varun: Yep. Yep. Totally.

Chris: You had to get somebody to draft you - or whatever - on it, so there's some similarity there, I suppose.

Some of it is worrisome. We don't have to get into all that. I've seen it before. I can't find the link to it just yet. What's being newly minted on fxhash thing and what are potentially problematic ones because I think that's perhaps how Marie found it is people just troll around CodePen. They find a nice Pen. They do the work that it takes to make it generative in the fxhash kind of way and mint it without the permission of whoever did it, which is kind of a bummer, you know. I'm sure it's happened to you, right? People steal your crap.


Varun: Actually, yeah. It did happen to me one time, but what I would say is they've had a pretty strong set of moderation mechanism in place right from the beginning, so people can report copy minting or if you're using someone else's code. Things get flagged right away, and there's even a warning mechanism now. If a new piece of work goes up, when you try to mint it, for the first couple of hours, you have to go through and manually say, "Yes, I'm taking the risk," because it's not been moderated yet. So, there are mechanisms in place now.

Chris: For the buyer, yeah. I guess my own personal way of handing was, like, I know you, and you posted a link that says, "This is my thing." I'll follow that link and buy it, and that's my proof that it's you, not somebody faking to be you. Almost put the responsibility on myself.

It seems a little weird that you would just go to a marketplace like this and just scroll up and down, and have no idea who you're buying from, just buy it, and then be mad that it was stolen. You're just clicking stuff. Don't do that. [Laughter]

Varun: Yeah. Yeah. You can also verify your profiles. It's a similar idea to Twitter where you get a little checkmark saying that, yeah, this is the person you think they are.

Varun: Yeah. It was a lot to get--

Why don't we move on a little bit because there's some other art to talk about, and we'll keep sprinkling in this conversation, as it's interesting.


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Chris: There's this one Z, I guess, ZHI, that it looks like you probably had NFTs in mind from the beginning with it. It's animated. I guess it reminds me of -- what do they call it -- nature pattern where it's the golden circle or something. I don't know if that's related here, but it's squares that get smaller and smaller and smaller and kind of animate from squares to rounded and clearly generative, like all this work is.

Varun: Yeah. Yeah. In this case, I did have NFTs in mind. One of the tricky things about doing something like fxhash is every transaction is just totally random. Whatever comes out has to look good.

Quite often, with generative art, that's not the case. People will share specific iterations where the random numbers picked good values and the thing looks good. But if you make something where it can generate a whole bunch of variations and it's totally out of your control, it needs to look good in most cases, and that's something that did come out of generative art is creating NFTs. It's now turned long-form generative art where, regardless of the iteration, it generally has a good output.

This was my first attempt at that, and that's why you'll notice there's not a lot of variation to it but it still--

Chris: Yeah, it's purples and oranges and pinks and stuff. You didn't go full-on random. I have enough experience with Web design to know that. There are JavaScript functions you can use, for example, to create a totally random color. Well, if you do that ten times, the chances of those colors looking good together is almost nothing, right? That would be a very ugly NFT that nobody would like to own, I'm sure. Yeah.

Varun: Yeah, so I ended up using a color generating algorithm where I could tweak the variables for the algorithm and could introduce some randomness there. But the idea is that it generates a palette that goes well together. That's the kind of stuff that we start thinking about then is, how do I create a system that is going to produce consistently interesting output?

Chris: Yeah. Yeah, that's cool. In this case, you'd think then that the marketplace, because these are all pretty similar, the value of them is all going to be pretty similar too, right? You could have coded it such that there's a 1% chance that a bottle of Plochman's mustard appears right in the middle of this thing. You mint 100 of them. One of them is going to have the mustard bottle, and the mustard bottle one, man, that one -- [laughter] -- it's going to be worth 5 times what the rest of them are worth. Are you interested in that game? It seems like a game.


Varun: The way it works right now, especially on fxhash, you set a price. When someone mints it, that's all they're paying. They can't more or less. However--

Chris: Oh... interesting.

Varun: Once it's minted, then you can code in what are the features of this piece and, based on those features, it will tell you whether something is rare or common. If it's rare, then you could value it higher.

Chris: The resale price gets higher, yeah, the second--

Varun: Exactly. Exactly, yeah. That's where the secondary market comes in, and you do set royalties on everything, so if something is unique and ends up being really popular, it might sell for more money than other versions of it. So, you just get a higher royalty rate based on that.

Chris: Oh, right, right. That's -- yeah. I wonder. If something was hotly traded and you put your royalties at 25% or something -- which seems high, but you can probably code in whatever you want, right?

Varun: Yeah, I think there's a limit to it. Yeah, like 25 might be the highest limit, I'd say.

Chris: Okay. You probably make more through the trading than you did in the initial minting - I mean maybe.

Varun: Yeah, absolutely.

Chris: I'm not sure if that's working out for everybody.

Varun: Yeah. I would say a lot of the artists that I've been following, especially the ones who do this professionally, they tend to experience that a lot to where the initial purchase will be a fairly low value, but the secondary market tends to be 100 or even 1,000 times the initial purchase or payment.

Chris: A thousand times? Woo! All right. I'm already looking at the minting process. There's already money there. For example, one of these ZHI ones is available. Somebody bought it. I don't recognize the name. They have no avatar, but they put it on the secondary market for ten Tez. I have no idea what they originally paid for it, but that's probably more, knowing that they're not going to get all ten of these Tez. Some of it is going to go to you, right? If they're selling it, presumably they want to make money on it and they've priced it higher than they originally paid for it.

But let's say they originally did pay ten Tez. Right now, Tez is like $4 or something. It's $40, and let's say you made 100 of these. That's money right there. [Laughter] I don't know. It just seems the original minting is not nothing. It looks like when you released one, probably because you're known as an artist, you sell everyone that you mint, right?


Varun: Yeah, it's a mix, I would say. In some cases, I was playing around with how many versions you can sell. You can set a number ahead of time and then a price based on that.

Chris: Is there a min and max there too, like between 10 and 200 or something like that?

Varun: I don't know if there's a max, but I guess you at least have to do one. Then even for a price, you can sell for free. That's not a problem, for sure. But it comes down to market dynamics where I might have too many versions at too high a price. Then I realized that, yeah, I put up too many, so I need to maybe burn some of them, which means cut the limit to a lower value. That's what you'll see in some cases. It did sell out, but I just cut the limit at a lower....

Chris: Oh... you do have some control, even after the original minting.

Varun: Exactly, yeah.

Chris: Well, that's interesting. Is it like quit your job? I'm sure you can't say on this podcast, but is the money that good? [Laughter]

Varun: No, not -- I know for other folks, for sure. I have certainly seen several artists do that. For me personally, it's more of an experience that I dabbled in late last year. I haven't really gotten back into it since then. Yeah, not something that I would want to turn into a full-time job, for sure.


Chris: I'm curious how much they help you, too. Maybe you've sold with other ones, but I'm thinking specifically of fxhash. If you say, "Oh, I want to make 10% of resales of this thing, you don't have to hand -- do you have to hand-code that yourself into a contract, or is that what they help you do?

Varun: Yeah, that's what they do. That's what the platform is. If you take the tech stack analogy, Tezos is kind of like the database where the transactions live and what the contract is, and all of that information lives. Then fxhash is kind of like the backend that is the API that you're hitting to update the database. Fxhash will help you create (feed) in the variables into the contract, so how many versions do you want to allow people to mint, what's the price, what's the royalty, and all that kind of stuff.

Chris: Okay, cool. Jumping ahead to one that happens to also live on CodePen, there's a Meta Balls example. It looks like this target shape, and there's some interactivity in that you can grab it and drag it around and things like that. Tell me about this one.


Varun: Yeah. This was pretty interesting. I would say a lot of my generative work comes from trying to learn a new technique. In this case, the technique was metaballs, which is a fairly established sort of shader or 3D graphics technique. But I found a version of it where someone had ported it to an SVG-based algorithm, essentially, so you could generate it using SVG paths, which sounds kind of crazy. Essentially, it's two circles. Then there's a connector that joins in between them.

Chris: Yeah. If they get close enough, they morph together. I've seen this done with blurring and stuff, but this is not that, right? You're actually calculating the exact paths.

Varun: The exact path. Exactly, and the whole thing is rendered using SVG. Yeah, and then there is interactivity where you can click and drag it and try to break it apart and things like that.

It's one of those algorithms where I don't really know what's happening under the hood. Maybe a little bit.

Chris: [Laughter]

Varun: But just knowing enough JavaScript to write some code to get it to render in the browser, and it's fun to play with.

Chris: Yeah, it really is. It's really satisfying. It's almost like watching a cell give birth or something, splitting off a chunk of itself. [Barf sounds] [Laughter]

Varun: Exactly. Exactly.

Chris: Very satisfying.

Varun: This is a good example of where I like to break down the mechanics of what's happening under the hood, so that's what I did. I wrote a blog post that talks about all the techniques that went into creating this.

Then something I picked up on CodePen was David Khourshid, but his handle is @davidkpiano.

Chris: Mm-hmm.

Varun: He started a new way of animating using observables, and that was pretty cool. I got to combine that with the SVG technique and that's how the whole thing is animated. It's just based on the observable library and I guess CSS Variables under the hood too.

Chris: Yeah, they do that. Shout out to Keyframers, which is Stephen Shaw who works for us at CodePen, and David K. They do a Twitch show animating, and they use that technique quite a bit.

Another one here is walkers, which is interesting because I think you brought this to -- you watched a show with Alex Trost from Frontend Horse, Self-Avoiding Random Walkers. It looks like that's related here to these walker NFTs that you made, right?


Varun: Yeah, totally. On the Frontend Horse stream, I covered sort of the basic technique behind this, which is, like you said, self-avoiding random walkers. It's kind of like the snake game from the old Nokia phones but imagine that there are hundreds of snakes on the screen at the same time and they can't touch each other. You create that sort of snaky pattern, but each of them is also avoiding the other snake. That's what you use.

Chris: Right, and it fills every "pixel" of the screen. It completely fills the area, which feels like magic. Then you've added, above and beyond that, the snakes somehow know when to stop and turn around and such when they're a certain color such that you zoom out far enough and it makes shapes. So, the snakes filled in a circle area with one kind of colors of snakes that are red. Then there are smaller circles that are green, and they fill in a kind of shape. This to me really -- [laughter] really blows my mind.

Varun: Yeah, exactly. That's the cool thing about generative art. You learn a technique, and then you can start layering things onto it to create more interesting images. That's exactly what happened here where I combined two techniques.

One is circle packing where you draw a bunch of circles that don't touch each other but try to fill up as much space as possible. Then I drop in these snakes into each circle, so they're not just avoiding each other, but they're also sort of constrained to stay within the circle. That's how you get the effect.

Then once all the circles are filled in, then I drop in a bunch that just fill up all of the empty space in between the circles. That's how it fills up the entire canvas.

Chris: So cool. So cool. I could own number one right now, the big bang number one for the low, low price of 10 Tez.

If I was going to do that right now, just for the interest of our listening audience, I have to have some Tez to do that. I have to find somewhere to buy them. And I need to put that Tez in a wallet, which to me is very weird that those are different things. When I buy it, isn't it automatically in a wallet? It's like, nope. [Laughter] Somehow, it's not.

For me, I just kind of did what it seems like the biggest players are, and I used Coinbase because I know you can buy crypto on Coinbase, so I have a Coinbase account. I buy some Tez for money, right? They take PayPal.

Varun: Mm-hmm. Yep. Yep.

Chris: I get some Tez, but I think maybe they're going to have a wallet someday or something but don't now, or at least it's limited or not many people integrate with it or something. Coinbase is really your wallet.


Varun: They do have a wallet under the hood. They just don't expose it for you. The idea is, when you buy something, it does live in a wallet. It's just that it's a wallet that's managed by Coinbase. But then to interact with the website, you need a more public wallet, let's say, and that's where something like a MetaMask, which is really popular, or Temple, which is the equivalent in Tezos, comes in where you can log into a website using this wallet, and then you can do a purchase. It's kind of like Apple Pay where you log into Apple Pay using your Apple ID on your computer. But when you're on a website, you can just click to pay with Apple Pay.

Chris: That's a great analogy. It makes lots of sense. Admittedly, it did seem weird to me that I can have some Tezos in my Coinbase and have a fxhash account and be ready to buy it, but not be able to do it.

The one I ended up using was called Kukai, and so I send the money from Coinbase to the Kukai thing, and then I'm able to use that wallet to buy the NFT. Then I own it, but I don't super understand what that means.

Varun: Mm-hmm.

Chris: I guess I have a profile and I can see it there. I'm sure I could learn. I was just like, "Did it! I did it. I have it now. That one is mine." [Laughter] I kind of stopped. I kind of stopped there.

But yeah, I have one from you from there. It's tempting to buy big bang number one. I tell ya. It seems like a good price.

But I have another one from you. I'm not sure it's on your list or not. I didn't get all the way through it, but you did some other work. I think this was also one that you shared on Frontend Horse with gradients and the morphing and moving around that I thought were just extraordinarily beautiful. For some reason, where that one lives, in my musings with NFT, is on one called objkt.com.

Varun: Yes.

Chris: I don't know why I have to look at it on that one, but that's where this one that I own of yours is. What's the scoop there?


Varun: The reason for that is fxhash is entirely generative systems that create unique images. Then there are other platforms like objkt.com, which you can upload images and videos. The gradient one was a video, so that's why it lives there.

Chris: I see. It couldn't live on fxhash. Yeah.

Varun: Yeah, unless I could figure out a way to render it in Canvas or something, then it could. But because it was generated in a machine learning software, I only have a video output, so that's why it lives on objkt.com.

Chris: Mm-hmm. I still used Tezos to buy it.

Varun: You still use Tezos. The thing is, behind the scenes, you can create galleries to view all of your NFTs from different platforms, so it will show you everything you own across the board. There's stuff like tryshowtime.com where, if you connect your wallet, it will pull in everything that you have from the different platforms and show you in one place, so that's one way to do it. There are a bunch of other gallery services where you can create a website that showcases everything for you. Then you can even curate what you want to display there and feature certain things, kind of like creating your own website blog post where some blog post might be featured and then there's an archive with everything else.

Chris: Yeah. Yeah, I see another one here of showtime.io. That's where you can see. You have a profile there that shows ones that you've owned, created, and stuff. It's a pretty nice experience.

Varun: Yeah, exactly. You can do both. You can show everything you've created. You can show everything you've owned. You can filter by what is the stuff that I have from fxhash, what is the stuff I have from objkt.com or any other platform.


Chris: Yeah, cool. We're getting on in time, but I am curious. It's impossible at this early stage to have a conversation about this without addressing some of the other--

I mean we talked about the environmental impact and stuff, but there are some people that are just so opposed to this entirely that I feel like make pretty strong points. Maybe this is great that artists like you are getting paid for work in a way. Everybody kind of agrees with that, like the legit artists that are making money at it. That's pretty rad.

But there are other people that feel like this world is so full of -- a word that's often used is grifting and theft and the fact that cryptocurrency is involved at all is just a scourge on the Earth and whatever. I just would love to hear. Just weigh in a minute on that and how you feel about this whole ecosystem.

Varun: Yeah, I actually agree with a lot of that criticism. What attracted me to this initially was the fact that suddenly a lot of these generative artists that I followed for over a decade, I could support them. In some ways, it's a lot like Patreon where you're paying to support a creator that you like, and you get some reward in return.

The ownership aspect is less important for me. I don't really care about the fact that I own an NFT by a particular artist. It's great. I'm able to support them. That's the primary goal for me.

It doesn't really need to be crypto-backed. There is no reason for that. It can be done in many other ways. A lot of these artists could have had a Patreon account, and I could have supported through that.

I think what just happened is there was a bit of a cultural momentum around these platforms which just happened to be crypto-backed. That became a popular way to support artists, at least within the generative community. But there's a lot more to NFTs outside of that.

I follow a lot of sports, and tons of sports now do NFTs for soccer, for NBA, and things like that. There's definitely an aspect of grift there. The image-based NFTs, like the Bored Ape Club and things like that, which I don't totally understand, and I think that is a market that's driven by hype a lot. I think that that can catch out people quite easily. It's kind of like investing in stocks where you don't necessarily follow the companies, and you can lose money really easily.

I think there's definitely very valid criticism that's happening for NFTs. I think that's important because there is a kernel here that allows us to support art, and that's really cool. But I think we also need to be careful around how are we enabling that. Is it being done in a way where, in the short-term, it seems really cool, but a bunch of people will get taken advantage of or ignoring even the environmental impact of it? I think the critique is certainly valid.

Chris: Thanks for sharing your thoughts there. I really appreciate it. Varun, thanks for joining me on CodePen Radio. I hope we get to chat again. I really appreciate it.

Varun: Yeah, thank you for having me.

Chris: Sure. Sure. Yeah. Take care.

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