Do As I Say, Not As I Do

Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me

Geoff Golberg
6 min readApr 23, 2024
(DAU) number go up

Dan Romero, the co-founder of decentralized protocol, Farcaster, recently shared 7 bullets re: “How to think about Farcaster protocol data:”

In this post, I will be commenting on each of the points Dan surfaces in his manifesto:

  1. It’s like the web — anyone is free to create a website and host it.

<< This comparison isn’t apt for the simple fact that Farcaster — and Warpcast, the largest client by far and which is developed by the same team as the protocol — is a venture capital-backed, for-profit, start-up.

The web, on the other hand, is a “hypertext-based global information system that was originally developed at the European Laboratory for Particle Physics in Geneva.”

Therefore, the web — unlike Farcaster — is not pressured to reflect the aggressive growth (across DAU — daily active users — and engagement metrics) that venture investors demand. >>

2. There is no moderation at the WWW level. And even in the cases of DNS seizures (extremely rare; multi-jurisdictional), IP addresses will still work!

<< Farcaster is decentralized, and, as such, should not be moderating content, nor should the protocol function as the arbiter of truth. web2 social, in my opinion, took things too far in this regard.

That said, web2 social companies have devised thoughtful policies that define spam — and platform manipulation, more broadly. Where they have failed, however, is in implementing said polices (here is Twitter/X’s policy, for example).

Warpcast has developed no such policies.

Farcaster’s founder, on several occasions, has stated that fighting spam on Warpcast is a priority — while never actually providing a formal (and thorough) policy that defines what they consider to be spam:

And platform manipulation continues to be a large problem for the nascent, growth-driven start-up.

Mitigating platform manipulation properly, of course, directly hinders ability to grow DAU and engagement metrics.

Hence, despite being decentralized, Farcaster — just like public web2 social companies selling a growth narrative to Wall Street — is faced with a conflict of interests. >>

3. Post-permissionless, the raw protocol data from Hubs was never going to be “nice and clean”. This is why PageRank was necessary for web search. A useful public API from Warpcast is the Power Badge:

Would encourage people interested in looking at Farcaster data to move to social graph-based models. Start with a core of 100 “good” users (you get to pick!), see who they follow and engage with, rinse and repeat, etc.

<< When Merkle Manufactory — the company behind Farcaster — closed their latest round of funding (valuing the protocol at a whopping $1bn), presumably it was not based on the number of users that have a Power Badge. More likely, it was based on their DAU number which — similar to web2 social — is unaudited (and heavily inflated):

Given the inherent conflict of interests — whether we’re talking web2 social or decentralized social protocols — it is imperative that profit/growth-driven entities are kept in check and not allowed to grade their own homework. >>

4. Long-term, the only way to measure relevance and influence of a given Farcaster account is who is following and engaging with an account, not the raw numbers. This isn’t possible on web2 social since the platforms don’t expose the entire graph via APIs. On Farcaster, the graph is public and permissionless.

<< Farcaster’s entire graph being public and permissionless is a double-edged sword.

On the one hand, it allows them to take a moral high ground when comparing themselves to web2 social; on the other hand, however, we can see that the Emperor has no clothes:

And if raw numbers are irrelevant — as is alluded by Farcaster’s centralized leader-in-chief—then why is he always cheerleading them?

(Additional examples of cheerleading raw numbers may be found here and here) >>

5. Why don’t we increase cost? We started at $12 per storage unit per year in October and had a lot of good users complain it was too expensive. So we iteratively brought it down over the last few months to $3 (paid to the protocol). Warpcast charges $5 because of mobile app store fees.

Increasing cost to sign up makes it less likely that good users sign up, but doesn’t deter all spam (just some of it).

<< This cost is minimal/negligible for nefarious actors.

It doesn’t deter bad behavior on Warpcast, and the same holds true for paying for verification on Twitter — despite what Elon Musk may tweet.

For example, if I am earning $20K USD per month farming $degen tips on Warpcast, paying $8 per account ($3 to protocol; $5 to client) to create 100 accounts (used to artificially inflate my engagement metrics) simply becomes part of the cost of doing business.

Conveniently for Farcaster, it also results in number go up re: DAU. >>

6. All of that said, of the 326K FIDs with a paid storage unit, i.e. valid protocol users, ~300K are paid sign-ups. So every DAU by definition generates at least $3 in revenue to the protocol. You can see those payments onchain:

This doesn’t happen in web2 social (since sign ups are free). Although, that’s changing:

<< Define “valid protocol users.” >>

7. Finally, just because an FID has a lot of followers and raw engagement numbers, doesn’t mean the average user on clients is seeing it. Warpcast and other clients are going to continue to refine quality filtering (in the same way search engine indexes and email spam filters evolved).

<< Warpcast is Farcaster’s flagship client, and it drives the vast majority of “users” that the protocol onboards.

Hence, relying so heavily on other clients — where there are minimal eyeballs relative to Warpcast — to handle the heavy lifting when it comes to setting and enforcing platform manipulation policy is flat-out foolish.

But what do I know? I have only been swimming in this stuff for the past 6 years! >>

Social Forensics maps and monitors social connections and activity.

We create purposefully designed tools to manage social data analytics needs across various industries. Our focus is audience segmentation and identifying coordinated inauthentic behavior (CIB) across social media platforms.

Geoff Golberg is an NYC-based researcher (and entrepreneur) who is fascinated by graph visualization/network analysis — more specifically, when applied to social networks and blockchain activity. His experience spans structured finance, ad tech, and digital marketing/customer acquisition, both at startups and public companies.

Geoff is the Founder/CEO/Janitor of Social Forensics.



Geoff Golberg

CEO & Founder, Social Forensics | Previously: Co-Founder, Elementus | Featured in BBC, CNN, BuzzFeed, and Quartz, among others |