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FEB 16, 2024

Building Around Landslides

by 2Eyr..75fG, Cat Russell

Understanding impermanence in our landscape and learning the right questions to ask before minting
Over the next few months I will be publishing a series of essays and thought-pieces for artists, collectors and blockchain enthusiasts in the web3 space.  These will be opinion driven, but with a goal of helping readers better understand what questions they should ask themselves so that they can form their own opinions and through that, hopefully increase their chances for long-term success.  Your answers to these questions will (and should) often differ from mine, as our underlying wants and goals for ourselves and our careers are probably also equally unique.  What is important is that these inspire you to move independently with intention and conviction.

The year is 2017: The top 10 coins by market cap include 'Bitcoin Cash', 'Ripple', 'IOTA', 'Dash', 'Cardano', and 'NEM'.  People are 'investing' in ICOs which promise to then create working products.  Staking is interesting but masternodes promise strong potential for the future.  Many new faces are joining the markets (including yours truly) and everything feels fresh and inspiring.  Mass adoption seems promised just around the corner and it is difficult to not imagine all of the things just stated becoming mainstays in the web3 world.

Looking back now, so much of that was doomed to fade into obscurity.  As I personally look back on so much of that and my mistaken beliefs around it I can see why I got caught up in a false sense of permanence in these actually fleeting moments and now see many of my mistakes are rooted in that.  But that is one 'cost of tuition' for being here.

If you are reading this though, you are probably an artist who happens to mint art.  There is a good chance you arrived in 2021 or later.  You have seen a different top ten coins by market cap, ICOs have been replaced by airdrops, and staking is interesting but other defi products promise strong potential for the future.  With all of those things I urge you to understand that it is a flip of a coin they one day feel as silly and irrelevant as my description of 2017.  Quite simply: Everything around us will not stand the test of time.  

Now do NFTs under that same lens.  More importantly though, todays essay will focus on thinking the same way about Layer 2s (L2).

(Let us rewind really quick and lay out an educational foundation on chains and L2s, just in case no one has spelled this information out for you.) 
Wow look at that graphic.  really helps you understand what I am talking about and wasnt just put here because graphics help readers not lose interest.  Inspiring
Wow look at that graphic.  really helps you understand what I am talking about and wasnt just put here because graphics help readers not lose interest.  Inspiring
Chains and L2s
As a creator in web3 you are most likely minting on a blockchain.  But lets make sure you understand what BTC, ETH and SOL are and their differentiators.

Bitcoin- Most easily described as 'the worlds gold'.  Its chain is a fairly simple ledger that securely stores balances and transactions.  There is a set maximum supply and it works its way closer to that every year as validators of the network mine coins through a Proof of Work method.

Ethereum- Often described as 'the worlds computer'.  This chain was the first to bring smart contracts into the network as part of its functions.  These contracts allow for automation of mathematical equations, as well as the ability to create automation in functions between users and the ability to deploy code. It is these functions that have allowed us have 'tokens' which reside within the ETH network and allow you to deploy smart contracts which you may mint non-fungible and semi-fungible tokens of your art.

Solana- I would describe it as 'the worlds app marketplace' though many probably disagree.  It has the features of ETH while having faster throughput times and a focus on scale and dapp development.  

Please note these are the quickest, crappiest descriptions of each that you may find on the internet.  I am rushing that to get back to the meat of this essay.  DYOR 

"But Cat...I have heard of other things like Near, Cosmos, and I keep hearing the word Cardona but people make a joke I don't get about it whenever it is said".  Yes, those are other Layer 1 chains.  Just like the ones above they have their own ecosystems similar to how Solana is separate from Eth on a blockchain and network level. 

"But Cat... I have heard of other things like Optimism, Arbitrum, Zora, and others that all keep telling me to come to them and mint."  Yes, those are Layer 2 chains.  They build as rollups on the ETH network and batch large amounts of transactions with lower costs.  It is how we will see ETH scale.  

Okay.  So as you can see there are a lot of options for where to put some art.  If you knew all this though, thanks for bearing with me.  Back to the topic at hand:

Building Around Landslides

Think back to 2017 me.  I was watching all the top coins and tokens in the space and asking the wrong question.  I kept asking 'which will perform the best'.  That question was okay for a spectator to ask and I faired only 'okay' as a result.  It opened me up to incorrectly assessing risk and sometimes I would sit and watch an investment literally die. Oops lol.

But you aren't a spectator, you are a creator.  Probably you have been asking 'where can I sell my art best'.  And that seems like an 'okay' question.  And hopefully in turn you have faired at least 'okay'.  But is it the correct question for you to ask?

This is a moment we need to pause and remind the reader.  Your wants and needs are different then mine.  If you make rent selling art, your best question looks way different then if you want clout, then if you want to be sold at Sotheby's, then if you want to be in museums in 100 years.  None of those are wrong, but they all should shift your question you ask.  Me: I want my entire body of work to survive.  Now I imagine most artists will be like 'yeah so do I', but do you?  I am not saying that judgingly, I am saying 'do you care if the commission you did for Arby's is accessible in 20 years or has faded away to obscurity?'.  I am hyper stubborn and I do care and there is a tradeoff here. I HAVE to miss financial opportunities based on chain or Layer.  I cannot ask 'where will minting this piece sell the best', but can only ask 'will my art survive if placed there'.  This essay is not asking you to think like me. Rather it is asking you to be mindful of this so that art you feel important doesn't accidentally fade away.

Minting Under the 2017 Lens

Here is a hard truth: Not all chains you can mint on will be around int 5 years. Likewise not all Layer 2s will be around in five years. Multiple of the 'top 10' coins from 6 years ago are no longer in the top 150.  Blockchains 'can' permanently store data but they can also die and prevent future transacting.  This happens and we all know it happens, but lets really talk about it.  Some of the household names right now will simply vanish in a few years time.

"So Cat...why do you have such a dumb name for this essay?"  I don't its good. I am asking you to realize you are building around landslides.  Me personally, I only build on ETH L1 and Solana as of now.  That has its own risks (namely eth turning solely into a rollup machine and b2b), but I believe these are strong establishments which can weather the storm.  Outside of these two, you as a creator should ask yourself 3 questions:
1. what are the opportunities for creating on this other chain or L2?
2. Do I think this chain or L2 will 'win'/be around in the future?
3. Do I care if this creation in particular survives?

Using these three questions I believe you can best assess what is good for you.  Personally I do think in 5 years all ETH art will pretty much exist on a couple L2s.  We can all place our bets after looking at the 50+ L2s that currently exist, but remember, its bets not assured.  That said, each of these want to win.  They will bring opportunities.  They will run a huge competition to get art minted on them. They will run coordinated efforts with brands which could absolutely boost your resume when you do client work. They will provide fresh collectors eyes and create moments where you can leverage it to be 'the hottest artist right now on ____________'.  For most of you I say hell yes, run and get those opportunities. Land the artist grant, or the commission, or the exhibitions on billboards they sponsor.  All I ask is you remember you are building around landslides.  So always ask the right questions so that in 5 years, just as I watched some dumb coin I held go to zero, you dont watch your favorite creation become locked into obscurity due to a random chain ceasing to operate. 

-Cat
Graphic used in this was made by me using mspaint in like 2 minutes.  Yeah it looks terrible.  if you want to look at good art go to catrussellart.com  That is where the art is.
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