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Confused by Farcaster?

Nobody ever said creating community is easy

With enough traction, a fully decentralized social media platform could provide the leverage needed to change how the internet works. Likely this will lead to big opportunities for builders, creatives, and other groups who don’t fit into the cookie-cutter containers of the existing internet. But heads-up: Getting there might be slightly disorienting.

When I was 25, I found myself living in an end-of-the-road town.

The thing about this particular town was that it was on the edge of Lake Nicaragua. I’m originally from the United States. Only a few months before, I joined the Peace Corps, an NGO that places Americans in communities outside of the US with the goal of building better relations.

I might have stretched the extent to which I could speak Spanish when I requested an assignment in Central America. Or maybe, because I was 25 at the time, I still had an out-sized belief in my own potential.

It took months — more than a year maybe — before I would have command of enough language to be useful.

During the time I lived there, I made a lot of mistakes. I got laughed at a lot for saying the wrong things. One time I was giving a training and I kept referring to a poster I made. My goal was to give teachers ideas about how to be more engaging and interactive in the classroom.

The only problem was that I forgot an important accent mark on the title of my poster. So instead of saying “school year,” the title of my presentation actually resembled something closer to “school anus.”

There were many such cases of stories like that. Given the new language and culture dynamics, I was frequently disoriented enough to do something foolish, or comical, depending on perspective.

Looking back now — two decades later — there are a lot of feelings that I associate with the two years I lived in Nicaragua. One of the big feelings was frustration.

Sometimes it was the simple things, like when a bus wouldn’t show up and I would have to wait for hours to get somewhere. Or when I had to distill an important point or emotion down into simple words because I didn’t have the right vocabulary.

But a lot of the time I was just frustrated with myself for not being able to learn fast enough.

Sufficiently decentralized

I’m telling you all of this in the hopes of qualifying what I’m going to say next. I’m going to dive into the idea of Farcaster and the mission as I understand it and explain how sometimes it can be confusing or disorienting to use.

I mean, right away, I have to explain to you what I mean when I say Farcaster because what I’m really talking about is my experience using Warpcast. See, it gets confusing already.

Farcaster is a protocol, or base-level infrastructure, that was designed as a way to make it easy to build decentralized social media apps or clients. The people building the Farcaster protocol are prone to say that the network is “sufficiently decentralized.”

This implies, I guess, that decentralization exists on a gradient. The way I hear this is that decentralization is more like a dimmer switch and less like an on/off switch. More confusion.

In some ways, I see Farcaster as an offshoot of crypto more broadly. Or maybe it makes sense to say that Farcaster is crypto-adjacent. The whole onchain movement feels similar. It’s related to crypto, after all some of the tools and principles are the same, but the desired outputs are more specific.

Farcaster's goal is to solve the problems inherent in centralized social media. The list of issues with corporate-controlled social media platforms is long. However, the best way to summarize Farcaster’s value proposition is that it enables builders to create new apps and communities without the risk of getting rugged or de-platformed by a centralized authority. It allows internet builders to create permissionless services and experiences for the first time.

The issue is that because of Farcaster’s newness, or its emphasis on being a builder’s platform, the experience can feel unstructured to the point of being disorganized. In a lot of ways, using Farcaster shares similarities with trying to learn a new language or fit into a new culture.

The stakes aren’t quite the same as moving to another country, but there are still frustrations when things don’t work like they are supposed to — like when frames (a native tool that allows users to bring supported actions right into their timeline, think things like minting NFTs or reading articles) won’t load, or wallets won’t connect, or when you click on things and get a message saying they are unavailable.

And there are times when I open my Warpcast timeline — Warpcast is like a clone of Twitter, but with more onchain functionality built-in — and scroll for a few minutes before I realize that I don’t really understand anything that I’m looking at.

What I mean is that other Warpcast users might be playing a new onchain game I’ve never seen. Or they are going on about some kind of challenge, or tipping in a new memecoin, or promoting an obscure NFT.

In other words, there’s a lot of inside baseball happening. It’s like going to a party and feeling like everyone is somehow mid-conversation and they are talking about things that you can’t relate to.

And trying to navigate Warpast is the easy part. Just beyond there is a growing constellation of other Farcaster apps. It feels like there are so many different projects that it’s difficult to keep up with everything, which feeds into the feeling of never really being able to get a firm grasp on what it means to be on Farcaster.

Nevertheless, the community is growing. And not just in terms of daily active users but in terms of the new kinds of apps, services, and even new asset systems that people are creating with the newfound freedom of an open and interoperable social graph, which is Farcaster’s main utility.

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Maybe the end of the road isn’t really the end of the road

In a lot of ways, so far, using Farcaster — or more accurately, using Warpcast — feels similar to how it felt living in rural Nicaragua.

It can be confusing. Many times it can feel like I am are watching the world go by, but that I don't have enough words to say anything about it.

At the same time, the experience feels fresh and new. It’s still social media, and some of the functions such as liking, commenting, attracting followers, etc., but there is also something about minting, tipping, and using frames that feels like it is not fully cooked, but promising.

When I was in Nicaragua, I remember hitting an inflection point. I got to a place where I didn’t feel like I was on the outside looking in. And while I still made mistakes, I also felt comfortable, like I could move around and say stuff without confusing people. I started making friends and going on adventures.

Over time, I started to realize that the town I was living in wasn’t really the end of the road. I mean, it was literally the end of the road, but it was figuratively the beginning of something else — a new kind of network.

The more time I spent in the community, the more chances I had to explore the water on the simple boats with the local fisherman.

One of my favorite places to go was to a finca, or a small farm that was only accessible from the lake. The farm wasn’t much in terms of holdings, it was little more than a fenced in pasture. When I would visit we would collect milk in big jugs from half-feral cows.

For a long time whenever someone would refer to the farm, its name didn’t really register. Then one day it all clicked. They were calling it Paraiso…Paradise.

To be clear, I’m not trying to overcook this analogy. I’m definitely not trying to say that Farcaster is Paradise.

But what I do mean to say is that sometimes big-picture things don’t initially seem obvious. Mainly this is because we look at them through the lens of our past experiences and not through the lens of future potential.

For me, the biggest use case of Warpcast, and maybe Farcaster in general, is as an entirely new discovery engine. Even though I might not fully comprehend everything I'm seeing on Farcaster, I do appreciate the creative energy and the fact that every day feels a new projects are launching.

I’ve realized it’s OK that I don’t know what people are talking about all of the time. I feel like I’m still in the figuring things out phase, and that I haven’t connected the dots yet that Paraiso means Paradise. Someday, I’m convinced, it will start to click.

For now, it’s enough to know that Farcaster is an alternative to how the internet works so far. Decentralized social media is just an entry point into a new kind of network — into a new way of doing things. It's about realizing that there is still more out there beyond the end of the road.

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