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Slowcore Nerd Notes: Farcaster Channels = Creative Renaissance?

What if the Farcaster ecosystem holds the keys to de-enshittification?

I finished writing this edition of Slowcore Nerd Notes a few days ago, but something told me to hold off a bit before publishing it.

The next day, Airstack announced the Moxie Protocol, I spent a fun nerdy evening reading the Moxie docs, and my first thought upon finishing was:

"Don't think I've ever been this excited about anything else I've seen in my 3+ years in crypto."

I'm glad I listened to my hunch and held off before releasing this edition. Otherwise this might've been a much different article.

The Moxie Protocol ("Empowering the Farcaster Economy") stirs a kind of hope I thought I'd never see in my lifetime. I'll likely write a lot more about it when the time is right.

Creative Work Is Farcaster's Energy Source

Dan Romero, Farcaster's benevolent dictator, recently wrote that

"Our biggest issue is lack of interesting and entertaining content," adding that such content is Farcaster's " source today and every day, forever."

That's worth highlighting. Quality content is Farcaster's energy source. Clearly, such coveted content is extremely valuable.

But as I've often pointed out, there's an elephant in the room. As @mjc716 of Spotlight puts it:

"There's a whole class of creators out there without the financial and social mechanization necessary to make a living off the work they want to do."

Understatement of the year.

The lack of such economic levers means this whole class of creators cannot consistently create quality work at the level Farcaster seeks, often because the bulk of their time is consumed with day jobs elsewhere.

Yet there's now solid reason to believe that the Farcaster ecosystem may be on the verge of breakthroughs in collective intelligence (de-enshittification?) that could, if successful, eventually loosen the death grip of chokepoint capitalism and spark a true creative renaissance.

Dare I hope that this tectonic shift is already underway? That kind of hope feels audacious. Creative people have heard this sort of pep talk before, only to realize later that we'd been sold a bill of goods.

But if I'm right, Farcaster may soon serve as a seedbed for the kind of social flow and financial reciprocity cycles that can support creative work sustainably.

The keys to this unlock? Decentralized channels + crypto rails.

A New Option: Community-Owned Channels

On May 23, 2024, Farcaster channels became permissionless and began the decentralizing process, opening a vast economic and social design space that we're just beginning to explore.

Channel owners now have the option to develop community-owned channels, including positive-sum ways of rewarding creative contributions, channel moderation, and all sorts of behind-the-scenes maintenance work. That's a pretty big deal. Cryptoeconomic levers (e.g., protocol rewards and tipping tokens) are already making a material difference in some cases.

At the moment, however, structurally extractive patterns still hold sway. Chokepoint capitalism isn't about to cede control easily. There are channel mods who earn a pittance for heavy-lift work.

The Merkle Manufactory team is well aware of these constraints. In fact, Dan explicitly said:

"We believe in allowing channel creators to choose whether or not a community has some type of economic model... [...] That flexibility is going to lead to higher quality outcomes because now, being a mod is not some thankless job to make high-quality content and not get paid effectively."

It's unclear how this will play out. But I'm hopeful that the Farcaster ecosystem will give rise to true positive-sum outcomes.

What if Farcaster Succeeds?

If it becomes clear that moderators and contributors can make a sustainable living on Farcaster — on their own terms and with minimal platform risk — it'll be a major unlock. Once word gets out, creatives will likely show up in droves.

Extractive patterns have long deprived creatives of full reciprocity for the value they create. After countless years of this treatment, some have resigned themselves to a "starving artist" fate and given up on finding an oasis in the parched desert of the creative industries. Who can blame them when all previously promised "oases" turned out to be mirages of the "creator economy" and its equally extractive predecessors?

Imagine how you'd feel if you'd been overworked and underpaid for decades, but even after you'd indisputably reached a high level of mastery of your craft and your work had received high praise from top-ranked peers, your earnings were still just a trickle. Meanwhile, you were told it was your own fault, and "exposure" was the key. You just need to hustle harder! As soon as you get your big break, go viral, and get discovered by the right people, your earnings will surely improve!

Imagine, furthermore, that in addition to this frequent gaslighting you had to navigate a social climate that glorified the "starving artist" archetype, making it risky to speak openly about financial matters in the arts lest social ostracism dry up your meager income streams completely. This is a labor of love, right? You're not in it just for the money, are you? Sellout!

Creatives don't have to imagine, because this is the norm. It's nothing new.

To most people, though, value flows in creative industries are pretty opaque. As Tom Beck writes:

"Twenty years of the social-media-powered web has trained everyone to accept creative work for free. But it was never free. The costs were hidden, and the value did not flow to the creators."

Meanwhile, the price for the collective benefit of "free" and underpaid creative work continues to be paid out of the creators' pockets.

Creatives are fed up with empty platitudes. If momentum continues to build in the right direction on Farcaster, I predict they'll eventually arrive en masse for a better chance at something that's long been out of reach everywhere else.

Contrary to the stereotype, few creatives seek fame and fortune. For most, what's missing is straightforward: a livelihood that sustainably supports the creative work they're here to do. Yet the vast majority have been shut out from even that modest goal at every turn.

Has the time finally come for the real creative renaissance crypto has long promised?

I'm cautiously optimistic.

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#farcaster#web3#creativity#moxie protocol#channels#value flows