Drew Baker is the Technical Director and a partner at Funkhaus, an LA-based digital agency working at the intersection of strategy, design, content, and technology. Drew shares his thoughts on what makes a great website and how important, but challenging it can be to clearly understand who you are and what you want to achieve. He shares his experiences with clients for whom they have designed and built world-class websites and what it takes to make them great. You can check out their website at https://funkhaus.us/
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Welcome to Managing Marketing, a weekly podcast where we discuss the issues and opportunities facing marketing, media, and advertising with industry thought leaders and practitioners.
Today, I’m sitting down with Drew Baker, Technical Director and a partner at Funkhaus, a digital agency based in LA and working at the intersection of strategy, design, content, and technology. Welcome, Drew.
Hey Darren, thanks for having me.
Well, look it’s great to have this chat because I’m really fascinated by first of all, a little bit about the history of Funkhaus, because you’re based in LA and have a real heritage in doing a lot of great websites and things for the entertainment industry, don’t you?
Yeah, we are really lucky to dominate that niche for sure. We like to say all roads lead to Funkhaus in Hollywood. Somehow, we just have so many of these clients.
It kind of came out of because my business partner and creative director, David Funkhouser, he and I worked 10 years ago now, for this company called Wiredrive. And Wiredrive is still a thing. It’s like a private video sharing solution that’s used in a lot of production of commercials and sharing reels and stuff.
Like if you’re bidding on a job, you might send around a reel of all of the … like beer commercials we’ve done or something. And that was Wiredrive. And so, like a lot of these agencies that they were doing website work, built this … we didn’t call it that at the time, but a SaaS tool called Wiredrive.
And all of a sudden, the SaaS tool became more profitable than building the website part. And so, Wiredrive was just trying to give up and get out of the website game. And so, Dave and I were just sort of sitting there in the wings, just like grabbing all these freelance website jobs. And then eventually, we just had so much of them, we were like, “Hey, we should probably just do this website bit.”
And so, that’s how we started and hit the ground running with a ton of Hollywood clients. And so, it’s been good, but it’s been about kind of trying to grow out of that for the last few years, just because there’s a ceiling there and like with how big you can really get by just doing that kind of work.
Well, it’s interesting though, from my perspective, because the entertainment industry, Hollywood, has always been a real content factory, hasn’t it? I mean, they do get how to make great content.
You know, I love the fact that advertising agencies often say that consumers have got shorter and shorter attention spans, and yet, they’ll still sit down and spend a weekend binging on the latest Netflix series or whatever.
So, in actual fact, humans don’t have short attention spans. The fact is that if you produce great content, then people are going to watch it. But the transition to web and especially building websites and web entities around these long-form content that Hollywood’s famous for, is still a challenge, isn’t it?
Yeah, it really is. And there’s a lot of like special things to factor into to try to present these companies and everything. But ultimately, we look at it like it’s this intersection of a high design need, but the client is competing on a high design need.
Like if you’re a visual effects company and you’re trying to win business, you need to look like better than the next one. So, there’s this high design need that they all have. But then there is a real specific business case that they have, which is we need to have an agency call us and book us for a job, or we need Netflix to hire us to do this thing or whatever it might be.
And so, that’s like this really sweet spot for us, is high design meets a specific business case, which is a way of saying, read between lines, they have a budget. And so, it’s been great for us to live in that space where we’re building things that look cool, but have budget.
And then it’s been this great kind of proving ground to then roll into other areas that have the same sort of needs. Like boutique hotels has been a big one for us because it’s the same thing. Like it’s got to look cool, they’re competing on being hipper than the next, but they’re trying to book rooms.
Architecture firms and then also other agencies, the same thing really. They’re trying to present content in a way that looks interesting and more engaging than the next, but trying to convert a sale somewhere along the line. So, that’s been our sweet spot.
Yeah, because looking at your website, I mean it reflects high design, but it’s also interesting from a structural point of view in that it takes you through … you can navigate it. In fact, it almost encourages you to want to navigate through it.
And yet, from my perspective, one of the things that we are really frustrated by is that a lot of advertising agencies who say they have capabilities in this space, their own websites are often really difficult to navigate, and even difficult to use.
Why do you think that is? Where are people going wrong? Because agencies are also experts in content.
Yeah. You know, it starts with, like you should be asking yourself as an agency trying to build a website, who are we? It starts almost with the words more than it does anything else, like what do we stand for? What do we do? And there’s this whole brand positioning exercise that you should go through before you design a website.
And a lot of times, I think what happens with agencies is their relationship with executing on things , like building things is a real, like “We came up with the idea and we hired a vendor to do it.” They sold Google on this ad campaign and then they turn around and hire a bunch of other people to actually do the work.
And so, when it comes down to executing, that’s a real “Our idea, you are the vendor, do what we say,” kind of relationship. And so, when you haven’t really existed in the digital space, you kind of get this weird (we’ve seen) — you get a weird crossover of what that agency is good at, trying kind of to shoehorn that into a website.
And so, yeah, if your bread and butter as an agency is out-of-home billboard sort of stuff, really, what makes you think that you would know how to build a good website or what even goes into a good website? But you also don’t get to be as good as you are by feeling that way.
So they sort of have this high degree of confidence that we know what we’re doing and they’re good at these things and it comes down to this little like joke that I make internally. It’s like “Hands up who builds three websites a month? Oh, it’s just us? Okay, then how about maybe you listen to us?” Don’t just come in and sort of dictate to the experts, like what to do. Or make sure you have done the homework up front and really know who you are and what you’re trying to get across on your website.
Because a lot of what we do is just brand therapy, just working through boardrooms, trying to figure out what is it that you guys do? What do you say you want to do? A lot of that stuff goes into it.
So, I think the best thing that an agency building a website could do is just start with “What do we do”? Who are we? What don’t we do? What do we want to do? Dress for the job that you want. And it’s weird, a lot of people get hung up on talking about the things that they have done in the past, but it’s not really about that. It’s what you want to do in the future.
The other trap I see is that a lot of agencies actually use the website, almost like a demonstration of how creative they are without necessarily understanding the practicalities of that. And what I mean by that is the number of sites that take forever to load, which Google is punishing dearly through their lighthouse metrics, but also just mobile-first.
There’s a whole lot of things that really frustrate me about a lot of agency websites. You know, you’d think they’d get basics right.
Well, those kinds of websites you’re talking about, I always laugh at them because like my role at Funkhaus is Head of Tech. So, I’m the guy solving a lot of our complicated programming things, and we have a whole … not taking credit away from my team of engineers that all work here.
But I’m definitely also the one that is getting sent the link, like, “Hey, we want to do this,” and then showing me something like exactly what you’re talking about — some crazy borderline tech demo that isn’t really going to work in a whole lot of different scenarios, but it looks cool.
And you definitely have to balance that, oh, we want to look cool and we want to show, hey, we’re cutting edge. But you’ve got this business need that you need to meet. And a lot of people just forget that, to your point exactly. It’s like you’re not just trying to look cool for the sake of looking cool. Like what are we doing here? We’re trying to, whatever it might be; sell commercials or whatever you might try to be moving.
So, yeah, I think a lot of people just lose track of the objectives. And that happens all the time.
Well, I like the fact that you said that intersection between high design and a business need, because I wonder sometimes if they’re confused over the business need. Are they there to attract new clients? Are they there to attract new talent? Which part of this is … and can you do both? And if you’re doing both, do you need to have, in some ways, almost two different ways of entering into that website?
Yeah, the attracting the talent part is a big thing now, especially in what’s going on in the labor market right now, it’s so hard to find good people. And it depends on who you’re trying to attract because a lot of people — like for me, if I’m trying to attract some engineers, it’s not really my website that’s going to get them. That’s an important part of it, but it’s going to be our open-source code contributions or our participation in some meet-up groups around programming or whatever it might be.
And in the design world, it’s different and in the advertising world is different. I think you need to have a robust solution on your careers page and answer a lot of those sort of heavy lifting questions, but it’s more than just one, “Oh, we’ve got that one page on our website, so problem solved.” There’s more to it, for sure. So, the talent part is a big part of that, yeah. But I would look to do other things.
So, you just made me laugh because the number of sites you get to the people page and it’s that group shot that’s taken of all these people standing in a funky lane way with graffiti and street art, and the camera’s up at a weird angle. And that’s like, this is us as people. And it’s like, well, it could have come out of a stock shot, couldn’t it?
Yeah, I think your website needs to do a good job of showing your personality beyond just a photo. And I think it plays into your social media as well. You know, like most people are really interacting with brands through that these days.
Like if you told me 10 years from now, websites aren’t even a thing and it’s all just social media platforms, that does seem like a possible outcome. So, the website is there for a certain audience but the other channels I think are just as important nowadays. You kind of have to be doing everything, unfortunately.
Yeah. And look, I just want to pick up on that point, because earlier, you were saying about agencies are often outsourcing, especially the design and tech for web development. And yet, there’s really no reason, is there? Because a lot of this technology now is available. It comes down to getting the right people to be able to develop these web solutions in-house.
Yeah. I think that is proving to be very hard for people to solve though. And I get why, it’s very hard to … I mean, the Y Combinator guys, right? The Accelerator out of San Francisco, they’ve got this whole theory that non-technical people just can’t hire technical people.
You can’t be a marketing guy and hire an engineer and expect to kind of know what makes a good engineer. It’s very hard to do. I mean, even in my experience, like man, the amount of times we’ve done a hire that we should know or like we’ve tried to outsource something because we couldn’t do it because we were too busy or whatever the thing, and then picked the wrong company or the wrong … it’s really hard to do, I think.
And so, that’s, I think part of what’s going on and then also, I think a lot of these agencies, you grow around the capabilities that you have. So you start with a bunch of account managers, like how do you start a successful agency? It’s generally some guy leaves from some other big agency and brings a client with him and now, we’re like the new hotshot, and that’s how you start.
So, they can’t really make anything, it’s just this ideas economy, which for the longest time was like the sweet spot. You wanted to be getting paid for ideas, that’s great. But I think now, the big boys have all gotten big enough now that they’ve started to realize like, “Hang on, how much are we spending on web development? Or what’s our technical budget?”
And I think as the real money in the ad space is coming out of these tech platforms, like who’s made more money from ads, Google or ad agencies?
Yeah, I think the technical side has now become sort of the dominant piece of the pie. And so, we are kind of moving back towards, oh man, maybe there’s this long-term sticky relationship that comes out of being the digital partner, being able to solve digital problems for our clients. And that’s something that we’ve seen a lot of, like our clients, we control their website.
And so, we’ve got relationships that go for years and years, and becomes very hard to replace us. Which I think these big agencies are starting to realize. Like, hey, it’s actually pretty easy to replace the ideas guys. It’s really hard to replace the guys that built this whole thing. So, I think that’s playing into it for sure.
Well, in some ways, it’s the idea can come from anywhere when you build it. And I think it’s interesting what’s happened with the pandemic, the global pandemic, is that I remember as recently as four or five years ago, there were people out there saying companies don’t really need websites, there’s enough platforms out there like the Facebooks, and through social media, you can almost create your own presence that you don’t actually need a website.
But the interesting part is that this move to e-commerce, the acceleration of the amount of business being done online, has really put the focus back on websites, hasn’t it?
Oh yeah, it’s gone insane over the last two years with this e-commerce and everything. And you’ve seen that in the stock valuations of all of the big e-commerce players and they’re getting a real kind of like awakening now because I think a lot of people are wondering like, is that going to continue? But I mean, I think it totally is going to continue. I mean, who wants to really have a retail experience now? It’s yeah, it’s all online.
Well, showrooming’s taken off, which is you go into the bricks and mortar to actually see the product and then sit on your phone and buy it from one of the online retailers because they’ll deliver it tomorrow and it’ll be cheaper anyway.
Yeah. I would say Australia is a little bit behind on the e-commerce thing compared to what’s going on in America, for sure. Like the e-commerce stuff here is definitely ahead of it. And so, I would think the growth in Australia is going to be … I mean, I’m not breaking any news by saying that the future is e-commerce, but it’s only going to get more so, I think in Australia, for sure.
Yeah. So, from your perspective, what would be a great client engagement? What are the jobs or the clients and what is it about them that makes it a great opportunity?
Well, for Funkhaus, I’ll sort of explain it through some of the best client work we’ve done.
So, a good example was we did the website for ICM Partners, which is a giant talent agency here in America. Like kind of on the level of like CAA or one of those big talent agencies. And so, that’s a big, big company, lots of employees, lots of different divisions, lots of different sort of agendas inside the company.
And so, they came in early and it wasn’t just like, “Hey, we want to build this website, here’s a creative brief, go for it.” They came to us and said, “Hey, we’ve never really had a website. We know that we don’t know how to do this. Can you help us get from nothing to the best website in this space, that’s our target?”
And so, that started with a whole lot of stakeholder interviews for us and meeting with all of the different executives in all of the different departments and trying to get an understanding of … because the talent agency world is real smoke and mirrors sometimes because they don’t want to really talk about who their clients are.
You know, you can’t be like an agent that represents Tom Cruise and then also represents the guy that Tom Cruise is competing against for all his roles or whatever it might be. So, they sort of don’t want to talk about their own internals. They don’t want their own people to know what’s going on in there.
So, they’re very secretive. And then some departments absolutely want to broadcast to the world what’s going on. So, you get this very different take on it all. So, that was a great website project for us because it was more than just building something and was solving this big, complicated — like I said before, almost going through a therapy session with the whole company. So, that was a great one.
Sorry, Drew, what I really liked about it though, is you said they came to you and there were two parts to it: one, is they said, “We realized we don’t know this space,” which is so important because that means they’re completely open to your advice.
The second part is, “And we want to build the best website ever,” which sets the opportunity for you guys. And so, often, clients will say the second one, but they’ll never admit the first one. They’ll never admit that they don’t know. And the problem with that, is that the fact that they don’t know, but won’t admit it, stops you ever achieving the second part, which is the world’s best website, isn’t it?
Absolutely. I mean, I should tell them to call you, Darren. That’s a good move.
No, but from my perspective, almost any creativity needs a client that first of all says, “I’m not an expert, that’s why I’m coming to you. And secondly, here’s my vision. This is what I want to achieve. Now, let’s go and do it.”
What I’ve found is really interesting is the higher the level of operator, the really good smart people or the really high creatives totally get that. Like for us, we’ve built websites for Ridley Scott and Roman Coppola and these kinds of really high-level creatives. And being in meetings with those guys, they’re very real about what they don’t know because I don’t think you can get to that level without knowing your strengths and weaknesses.
It’s that middle ground that has all kinds of problems, which is those people that are very ego-driven about being really smart at what they do, but it doesn’t always translate. And so, I think you have to have this level of humility in any new sort of thing. It’s totally going to be a more successful result.
It’s humility Drew, but I also think it’s a level of professional confidence, in that they have confidence in themselves, so they’re willing to put their confidence in other people that have proven to them that they’ve got the chops to live up to expectations.
Whereas, I find that middle level that you describe is where they’re often not that confident in themselves, so they’re trying to micromanage everyone else for fear that something’s going to go wrong.
Yeah, absolutely. That’s why I think the most important thing to start with is just figure out who you guys are before you even build a website, just know what your strengths and weaknesses are, what you do like to do, what you don’t like to do.
But when you turn that on yourself, because I’m asking you to sort of pull back the drapes in the way … it’s often very difficult to do that self-analysis. When you guys were developing your own website — and I bring it up because as soon as I clicked on your link and had a look at the site, I went “Well, it’s pretty amazing.”
Was it difficult turning that sort of critical vision back on yourself and getting an agreement, or were partners all fairly aligned, or did you have differences of opinions? Because you said before, the talent agency, different departments all had different needs. Did you have the same thing or was it fairly unified?
Oh, it was so hard, so hard. Building our own website took forever because we had this saying for the longest time when we first started, our website was one page and it said across the middle, “The cobbler’s kids have no shoes” because we just had no time to build our own website. And it took years because you just don’t have time because you’re in the client game and you always have a client wanting something.
And so, you always find time by short-cutting yourself. So, it was really hard. But then in terms of just the strategy and being self-analyzing that, yeah, it was really difficult for sure. And also, we were going through crazy growth and trying to figure out, “Hey, what do we say on our website that we do?”
You know, I think when we started, we were… just being transparent about it, we were very focused on the building, the development part. Like, “Oh, we’re a development shop and we’ll design it.” And we kind of tried to talk about the programming side of it. I mean, obviously, that was me, I like that.
And then I had this big realization one year and I was actually back in Australia and visiting … my dad is a long-term construction guy (a builder), like general contractor. And I was sort of looking at his business and I was seeing the parallels with what my business was. I was just doing that in a digital sense and I think it was a really good lesson of like, okay, if you’re building a house, you have the main people involved: you have the architect, you have the property owner, and then you have the construction guy.
And who would you rather be? What are the risk/rewards for each little group there? You know, well, you’ve got the property owner and his risk is a huge capital outlay and his upside is kind of limited. Like it’s not like he’s going to get a million percent return on his piece of land that he developed. If he does really well, it might be 100%, that’s it.
Then you have the construction guy, which was my dad in this scenario, he’s doing all the work he’s there every day for years. And his risk is really high. He’s outlaying all of this stuff and he might make 20%, that’s it.
And then you have the architect and the architect, if he’s a star architect, his upside is so out of whack. He might spend a few weeks designing this thing and get paid unlimited. Like what does Frank Gehry get paid to design a building? It must be so outstripping his hourly cost or anything. And he has no risk really.
And so, I sort of was like, hang on a minute, who would you rather be? Because that was us, right? And so, we made this hard pivot away from talking about ourselves as the construction guys, we’re selling art.
So, we went hard on the design and strategy and all these kinds of things. And we also have exceptional execution, but you don’t care about that, which was the hard truth for me to swallow. No client is paying us for the development stuff. They want it to work and if it works, great, no questions asked.
But it needs to look good, it needs to sell the vision. It needs to meet all these business objectives, and those are all not even related to development. And so, we had to ask ourselves all those hard questions to build the website that we have now.
And look, I love the fact that you’re putting it in financial terms, financial return on investment. But we know human beings are incredibly emotional. And I was sitting here thinking it’s also so interesting when you apply an emotional return on investment there, because for the developer or owner, there’s the sense of yeah, at best, they get a satisfaction of they’ve funded and done a good job that’s returned good money. And hopefully, that will build on their reputation.
For the construction guy, it’s just you are reliable and you did a good job and you’ll get another job. It’s the architect that goes on and gets bigger and bigger and bigger projects because their reputation just keeps growing and growing.
So, even on an emotional level, there’s the same sort of out of kilter in that you all want to do a great job because it’ll lead to more work, but in some ways, the most visible is always going to be the person that designed it, had the vision. And really, then, the others just bring it to life, either through funding or through doing the backbreaking sweat work.
Absolutely. And you just got to really think about where you sit in that food chain, I suppose, and do the best you can at whatever it is you decide. There’s some great dev shops out there that only do that sort of stuff, but it’s a really hard thing to do.
The other problem is that it’s become … for a long time, has been a global business and a lot of development has been outsourced to lower-cost economies and they’ve got these huge sweat shops of coders just sitting there hacking away.
I mean, in some ways that is devalued, to your point, the construction part of web development, hasn’t it? Because it’s like, oh, well, why would I pay, let’s say 150, $200 when I can get a person for a month, a developer for a month for that price out of a developing country.
Yeah. I think the reason why you shouldn’t do that, and I’ll explain the sweat and tears that we learned doing this. As we were going through our growth here, we tried that. I tried, okay, like let’s build out an Indonesian-based dev team and see if we can figure out this offshoring model.
And what you’ll find out real quickly is that it’s really hard to maintain a company culture across a setup like that, at least internally. Your team has no allegiance to you, so that’s really hard. And so, the Indonesian thing didn’t work because we ended up spending most of our time training guys that didn’t work for us.
We just sort of engaged an Indonesian-based dev shop to… they were going to have the people and we were just gonna be a client. But the incentives are so out of whack. Their incentive is bill us as many hours as possible and our incentive is get it done in a short amount of time… because that’s our margin. And so, it just doesn’t mesh.
And then the next thing we tried was okay, that didn’t work, let’s try an in-shoring setup in America, we’ll find a smaller town that has a high tech talent pool. And so, we built an office around the Cornell University in upstate New York in this town called Ithaca. And that’s where we really ran into the cultural thing. It was like that office became its own little satellite that had no allegiance to the main thing. And after a few years, a whole bunch of them just like left to go do their own thing. Like why do they need us? So, that was really tough.
And I think also doing that in a city that was really hard to get to, and no one wanted to really go visit, like was no one from the main office really was like, “Oh, let to get on two planes and a bus,” it became difficult.
And yet, that’s what it takes, doesn’t it? Because it is actually that constant human interaction. And I know we’ve got used to living a virtual video conferencing world, but there’s still something about spending time with people.
Absolutely. And so, now, we sort of have, I think, well, TBD, but it looks like we’ve kind of figured it out a little bit. You need to have — in our case, we have four or five people in our LA engineering team that are living in LA, based in LA, that’s our LA people. And then we have a team in Croatia in Zagreb to augment that.
And the thought there is if you’ve ever been to Croatia in the summer, that place is paradise. So, no problems trying to get people to go there. And also, we bring them out here for two or three months a year and do onsite training. And we kind of try hard to make them part of the company.
And so, that so far is working. So, if you’re an agency out there and you’re thinking, oh, let’s, let’s build out our own sort of offshore dev operation, you have to be willing to do what I just described. You have to be able to build a team remotely, bring them to your home office, send your people there to build a culture and train them. It’s a lot of work, it’s a lot of work. And I think if you’re not technically inclined, forget about it.
Yeah. I’ve heard that described as the here, near, and far strategy. So, here is on the ground for you guys, LA. Then a lot of companies are doing something similar to what you’re doing in upstate New York. It’s near, but it’s not a totally different country, and then far.
And the approach they take is different levels of responsibility, in that a lot of design is done here, sort of the experimentation is done near. And then the real dev work is done far where once it’s all been put together (here and near), they get it done as far.
But I love the fact that bringing people together and rotating people around is so important. That interaction and people getting the flavor of working in each of those areas is amazing.
Yeah, I do think that’s the only way to do it. Trying to train someone via screen share is just not a good idea. And I know that the whole work remote thing, especially in the tech world it is becoming this default assumption that that’s how everything should be, remote only job positions or the new sort of hot way to get talent.
But man, as the guy who has had to train people through Zoom, it’s the most frustrating thing you could do. So, I’m a big believer in at least in the early days, sitting next to someone is definitely the way to go if you can.
Absolutely. Now, look, I’m going to ask you for the crystal ball now and based on the themes and the innovations that you’re seeing, but there’s a lot of talk around about Web 3.0. What do you see as the big themes coming forward and the impact that it’ll particularly have around web development?
Yeah, so this can get real technical, but I mean, just want to start up front by saying, I think a lot of the Web 3.0 stuff still is very much not solved. We don’t have a great use for a lot of it. I think a lot of the sort of cryptocurrency and NFT stuff is real scammy and has been sort of co-opted a lot by some pretty bad actors.
I think it’s a fantastic technology and there’s some really interesting things happening in that space, but it’s so early days, like it hasn’t really affected the agency world yet. There’s a couple of really good examples that when you see them, you’re like, okay, that’s interesting. And to me, the two main ones: one is there’s an agency out of New York that was called Friends With Benefits and they minted their own coin called the FWB coin.
And what they did was they figured out a way to kind of create a secondary market for this coin. And I’ll explain it real quick – are you familiar with this at all, Darren?
Yeah, I’ve heard about it, yeah.
Yeah. So, what they did was they started a Slack channel with all of their clients and a whole bunch of their sort of select vendors, like people they worked with that were great. And they said to the public, you can join our internal Slack channel if you hold a certain amount of FWB coin.
And I think in the beginning, it was like $10 or something, it was nothing. And they gave away half the coins they minted to all of their best clients and their best sort of relationship people. And so, this Slack channel just became a really interesting place to meet high-end creatives and also, meet high-end technical people, especially in the Web 3.0 space because that’s kind of their world.
And so, it drove up the value of the coin, which they happen to own a lot of. And so, that was really interesting, and now, they’ve built a whole bunch of events around it, and a lot of thought leadership stuff that you can only participate in if you own a certain amount of the coins.
So, that’s been really kind of an interesting way to see them adding value in a different way that was kind of interesting, but it’s still fundamentally relying on currency speculation. So, that sort of stuff is where it gets a little dangerous.
Yeah, though, in that particular case, I saw it more as community building. And community in a sense of scarcity. It’s a bit like one of the brands and I’ll probably get … is it Hermès, where you can only buy the next level bag if you’ve already bought the two below it. It had that sense of rewarding people for being able to collect or possess those coins, which then gave them access to something that was highly desirable for the community.
And so, it was the scarcity, which goes back to almost classic economics of supply and demand. The value of it came not through the coin itself, but what it represented for access to that community.
Yeah. But I guess, where my problem is with that, and also, the whole idea of, we kind of haven’t figured out a great use for this stuff yet, is that you can do all of that without crypto coin. You could just make, oh, we’re only letting a hundred people in a year or whatever it might be.
Like you solved a problem there that you didn’t really need to use crypto for. But the currency speculation side of it was awesome because you could turn around and be like, oh, this coin is worth a lot and we own most of the coin.
But hey, it was a novel use for it that I’ve seen in the agency game and thought, oh, that’s a good use of it. But in terms of the one thing I’ve seen that I think is a legit game changer in the technical space for web development, and this gets pretty technical, but in the concept of web development, you have this idea of a “package”, and a package might be a piece of code that someone else wrote that I’m using in my project.
And you can have packages inside packages, inside packages — it’s an upside-down pyramid. So, if you’ve built a website, you might not even know … well, I wouldn’t even know half or more like 80%, 90% of the packages that are being used behind the scenes.
So, this idea there’s a package manager that was called Homebrew that was really, really popular for this kind of stuff. And the guy who created that is a guy named Max Howell. He started a new successor to Homebrew, it’s called Tea. And you can look it up, tea.xyz, is their website.
And what he’s trying to do is solve this. He’s using NFTs and blockchain to flow money from this top-tier of packages. Like there’s a real high-level visibility, like React would be an example of one that’s very popular. A lot of people are familiar with React. But react is built on the top of thousands of other packages that no one’s ever heard of.
So, if you are these a celebrity in the tech world, these celebrity open-source coding guys, you’re making a good living based on Patreon and sort of open-source sponsorship and things like that. But you are existing on the back of a lot of people below you that no one knows about.
And so, what Tea is going to do through NFTs, is make each package get a portion of the revenue of the top-level packages. So, it trickles all the way down.
Yeah, this could really change the whole game for funding the open-source sort of development efforts.
And it was always the problem, wasn’t it? With open-source, because there are so many really clever people out there doing really clever things, but it was always difficult to keep them funded except through the largesse of Patreon.
Yeah, absolutely. And it’s a huge problem right now. There’s some really famous cases recently of people that had built these … like faker-js is a really good example of this. This was a package that a guy developed that was used to simulate data when you’re building something, like placeholder data basically.
And he just got fed up with all of these giant companies using it: Amazons, Googles, all these people. And so, he kind of just gave up. He just published a code commit that kind of broke it and was like, I’m sick of working for free for these giant multinational companies, I’m no longer doing this anymore and I’m breaking it for everyone.
You can roll back a version if you care enough. And it created a whole thing of people being like … what ended up happening is Microsoft who owns GitHub and where his code lives, kicked him out and rolled it back and made it work for everyone. So, Microsoft kind of like co-opted it.
And so, it’s a real problem in this open-source world how to fund this stuff. And so, Tea is the first crypto or NFT thing I’ve seen that really solves the huge need that we have. So, I’m keeping a close eye on that.
Well, and once that problem’s solved, it’s going to accelerate the development because it’s going to actually support the people that are doing that groundwork that leads to all these innovations, isn’t it?
Yeah, it could be huge for the open-source world. I hope for that. We’re really going to test the theory now that this decentralized thing is better than the centralized thing. Because the centralized thing is really, in a front-end world that I live in, is NPM, which is owned by Microsoft. And so, can this decentralized thing compete against the centralized people with a ton of money. So, we’re about to find out.
Hey, Drew, this has been fantastic, but unfortunately, we’ve run out time. Look, thanks for taking the time to have a chat.
My pleasure, Darren, fantastic talking to you.
And look, just before you go, a quick question: when you go online, what’s your go-to website?