Humans of Web3 is a simple series. Behind every protocol and platform is a rich mix of dedicated, passionate people; devs, designers, engineers, founders, managers, miners, the list goes on. Seriously. The list never ends. Look at what we’ve built with just this limited number of people. Now imagine what our ecosystems will look like when our friends, families, and neighbors join. This series is about celebrating people, no matter where they are or what background they come from. This series is about the future of web3 and the people ushering it in.
With new protocols and platforms coming out every week in web3, it is easy to lose track of the most fundamental aspect of innovation and growth: the people building it. XinAn Xu and Fei Yan, currently working on a grant to build PB-scale storage software for the Filecoin ecosystem, are nothing short of charming, engaged, and knowledgeable. Our conversation was refreshing, fun, and offered a window into the best possible outcome of good community engagement. At its core, it was two friends talking about their friendship.
XinAn and Fei initially forayed into web3 because of their interest in mining. In XinAn’s retelling, he recalls becoming interested in the blockchain world around the height of the GPU shortage in 2017. He fondly remembers how it got so hot in his tiny apartment that he would vent the apartment every night before bed, even with his industrial-sized humidifier humming in the background.
“There were wires coming from the bathroom, from the kitchen, there were wires everywhere,” he said. Bashfully, he briefly mentions that he has gone to great lengths to avoid his parents seeing his mining rig. “They wouldn’t understand anyway,” he laughs, “I do plan to tell them when they come to visit, but for now, I just ask my wife to angle the camera away.”
XinAn’s path to the Filecoin community was one of pure chance. “There was this project, Burstcoin. When Burstcoin no longer existed, I had all these hard drives and I needed a new plan.” Around the same time, Fei was seeking energy-efficient ways to mine. He started mining Filecoin and building relationships within the community.
Their paths finally crossed at Slingshot, a community competition that rewards the storage of real and usable data. Their digitally native relationship began in the Filecoin community Slack space, something many people in the web3 space can empathize with. Building entirely digital, true friendships over Twitter and Discord, though often a meme, is grounded in a true need and desire in web3: community.
For many, this means similar senses of humor, or a similar programming style. For XinAn, the main prerequisite is empathy. He maintained communication with Fei and the two worked on Filecoin mining strategies continually. Once the opportunity to co-work on a grant came together, it seemed a natural fit to them.
When reflecting on what their proudest achievements have been over the past few years, both seemed to agree that they were proud, and admittedly surprised, that they’d stuck to their interests in web3 and specifically Filecoin. They attribute this perseverance primarily to their connection with the Filecoin community. Fei, generally reserved throughout the interview, spoke very earnestly about how the community was actively engaged in helping newer members, how many connections were made, and especially how many of these connections became genuine friendships.
This sense of community that Fei and XinAn both experienced pushed them to make their involvement in web3 less of a hobby, and more of a passion. Both repeatedly asserted that the community kept them going, and that they wanted to contribute back in any way possible, even if some of their ideas felt impractical.
“I’m always putting more hats on myself,” joked Fei, as he discussed his and XinAn’s involvement in a Filecoin governance program that gives efficiency bonuses to people storing real data. “I agree with Fei. We trust [the Filecoin community], we’re partners, we’re building a very healthy community [and we] want to keep that rolling,” XinAn responded.
Mining can be unpredictable and changing market conditions can be difficult for a family. They had both brought up, earlier in the interview, that it was hard to discuss the technical aspects of mining, along with the circumstances that inform their work, with their families. Despite these difficulties, Fei and XinAn both credit their wives for their patience and open-mindedness, which affords the duo greater freedom to experiment in new areas. Fei does concede, however, that bear markets tend to leave everybody in zombie mode. They both agree that being able to focus on their Radius grant has allowed them to take their eyes off the market and to build rather than stare at numbers.
By the end of the interview, we had joked about mining, families, bear markets, and even awkward corporate “ice breakers,” so I couldn’t resist asking them one last question.
“You guys are having people over for dinner and you can invite anyone in the world, dead or alive, who do you choose?”
They both pause to think, likely groaning internally at the question.
Fei finally answers.
“Well, XinAn and I haven’t met yet, so him.”