Author: Guy James
A comment we are used to hearing here at FairCoop is: "but all this is so complicated! I can't get my head 'round it". This is often just before they give up entirely on the project.
We realise that there is a lot of information and we are in a process of organising it all better (as we admit is somewhat overdue) so that you can find what you need to find, in order to do what you need to do, and the rest can be left for later, or for never.
Because if you think about it, do you need to understand the stock exchange in order to use online banking? Or how Visa works technically behind the scenes in order to use a credit card? No, what you need to do is to trust those institutions; that they will not take your money - or at least to fully understand the risks involved in investing your money.
And of course, calling it "FairCoop" does not automatically make it fair; what makes it fair is the 'source code' set out in the FairCoop principles, and the level of commitment from the community in following those principles. This is why we ask people to get involved as much as possible, and always demand integrity and transparency from their fellow participants.
Also, if you don't have time to get involved in the ecosystem beyond the level of being a 'user' or 'consumer' (neither of those are words I am particularly fond of, but they express a certain level of commitment), this is perfectly fine, but we still encourage you to do as much research as you have time for and not blindly trust us (or for that matter anyone else). In time you will begin to see how it works, and for the parts you are yet to understand, you can choose to trust where possible and ask for answers whenever you like in order to build that trust. We are, I hope, a very welcoming community and always ready to answer any questions or clarify any doubts you may have.
We are in the process of creating a new, fairer, economic system in its entirety, and so some level of complexity is of course inevitable. Also we follow the principles of Free Software, where everything is open and transparent. This is another facet to how we create the trust which is absolutely necessary in order to show people that this is a real project, with real values and vision, and not some shady scheme. The "crypto" world has a bad reputation at times, and one which in some cases is unfortunately deserved. So we want to make everything absolutely explicit for those who would like all the information. However the downside of being so open is that it can appear that there is a lot to go through in order to understand how it works.
In other words, in an analogy with Open Source or Free Software, the 'source code' is there for those who need it, and we can trust that there are plenty of people reviewing the principles, documentation, and practical protocols we use to organise ourselves - and these are real people you can personally interact with. But fortunately you don't actually need to read and understand the source code in order to run a program, you just use it. The same goes for FairCoop's tools such as FairCoin, Freedom Coop or Fairpay - you just use the tools, find out more in depth if you need to, or not if you don't. The tools will work just the same.
Also, depending on the bioregion where FairCoop is being promoted, people will have greater or lesser levels of adaptation to the digital world. Thus the barriers to entry can be higher in some places where even the internet itself is something still not fully understood, and the efforts of the big tech players to simplify everything can sometimes lead to the misperception that 'Google is the Internet', or 'Facebook is the internet'. I believe some level of learning curve is not necessarily a bad thing, as it can lead to the empowerment of the person using the service, rather than the 'passive consumer' which is the role desired by many Silicon Valley companies.
This 'digital divide' can also apply between generations of course, with older people not 'up to speed' on the technology and needing more help to get involved. However we believe the benefits will more than justify the learning curve. Just go step by step, and if you see a problem, maybe you are the right person to fix it (or to help in the proccess of fixing it). This is the core of what is known as 'community self-management', and it can bring back a sense of empowerment to people who have been brought up on a steady diet of dependency and disempowerment... by which I mean pretty much all of us, of course.
So, with that said, here are a couple of links to get you started: to start your interaction with the FairCoop ecosystem, you can go to our main website, join our forum and introduce yourself there, or check out our wiki. Your best bet is to join your nearest FairCoop Local Node, which you can find out on the main website, and if there is no Local Node near you, why not consider starting one yourself?
And we have also prepared a Welcome Guide which is here.